Temporal Stability of the Human Skin Microbiome

Cell. 2016 May 5;165(4):854-66. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.04.008.


Biogeography and individuality shape the structural and functional composition of the human skin microbiome. To explore these factors' contribution to skin microbial community stability, we generated metagenomic sequence data from longitudinal samples collected over months and years. Analyzing these samples using a multi-kingdom, reference-based approach, we found that despite the skin's exposure to the external environment, its bacterial, fungal, and viral communities were largely stable over time. Site, individuality, and phylogeny were all determinants of stability. Foot sites exhibited the most variability; individuals differed in stability; and transience was a particular characteristic of eukaryotic viruses, which showed little site-specificity in colonization. Strain and single-nucleotide variant-level analysis showed that individuals maintain, rather than reacquire, prevalent microbes from the environment. Longitudinal stability of skin microbial communities generates hypotheses about colonization resistance and empowers clinical studies exploring alterations observed in disease states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • DNA Viruses / isolation & purification
  • Fungi / classification*
  • Fungi / isolation & purification
  • Fungi / physiology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Propionibacterium acnes / isolation & purification
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Symbiosis
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena
  • Viruses / classification*
  • Viruses / isolation & purification