The cutaneous microbiome in outpatients presenting with acute skin abscesses

J Infect Dis. 2015 Jun 15;211(12):1895-904. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiv003. Epub 2015 Jan 12.


Background: Previous studies have demonstrated an association between antibiotic use and the development of skin abscesses. We tested the hypothesis that alterations in the composition of the cutaneous microbiota may predispose individuals to skin abscesses.

Methods: We studied 25 patients with skin abscesses and 25 age-matched controls, who each completed a questionnaire. Skin swab samples were obtained for DNA analysis from 4 sites around the abscess site (hereafter, "peri-abscess specimens") and from similar sites on the patient's contralateral side and on healthy control subjects. DNA was extracted and analyzed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and high-throughput sequencing. The purulent abscess drainage was sent for culture.

Results: Fifteen patients with abscess were infected with Staphylococcus aureus. Use of nuc qPCR to quantitate S. aureus revealed a significantly greater frequency of positive results for peri-abscess and contralateral skin samples, compared with control skin specimens. Analysis of community structure showed greater heterogeneity in the control samples than in the peri-abscess and contralateral samples. Metagenomic analysis detected significantly more predicted genes related to metabolic activity in the peri-abscess specimens than in the control samples.

Conclusions: The peri-abscess microbiome was similar to the contralateral microbiome, but both microbiomes differed from that for control patients. Host characteristics affecting microbial populations might be important determinants of abscess risk.

Keywords: MRSA; abscess; skin infection; skin microbiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / diagnosis*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiota*
  • Outpatients*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Skin Diseases, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult