Review of human hand microbiome research

J Dermatol Sci. 2015 Oct;80(1):3-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2015.07.006. Epub 2015 Jul 23.


Recent advances have increased our understanding of the human microbiome, including the skin microbiome. Despite the importance of the hands as a vector for infection transmission, there have been no comprehensive reviews of recent advances in hand microbiome research or overviews of the factors that influence the composition of the hand microbiome. A comprehensive and systematic database search was conducted for skin microbiome-related articles published from January 1, 2008 to April 1, 2015. Only primary research articles that used culture-independent, whole community analysis methods to study the healthy hand skin microbiome were included. Eighteen articles were identified containing hand microbiome data. Most focused on bacteria, with relatively little reported on fungi, viruses, and protozoa. Bacteria from four phyla were found across all studies of the hand microbiome (most to least relative abundance): Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes. Key factors that impacted the hand microbiome composition included temporal and biogeographical dynamics, as well as intrinsic (age, gender) and extrinsic (product use, cohabitants, pet-ownership) variables. There was more temporal variability in the composition of the hand microbiome than in other body sites, making identification of the "normal" microbiome of the hands challenging. The microbiome of the hands is in constant flux as the hands are a critical vector for transmitting microorganisms between people, pets, inanimate objects and our environments. Future studies need to resolve methodological influences on results, and further investigate factors which alter the hand microbiome including the impact of products applied to hands. Increased understanding of the hand microbiome and the skin microbiome in general, will open the door to product development for disease prevention and treatment, and may lead to other applications, including novel diagnostic and forensic approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hand / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Skin / microbiology*