Multi-Body-Site Microbiome and Culture Profiling of Military Trainees Suffering from Skin and Soft Tissue Infections at Fort Benning, Georgia

mSphere. 2016 Oct 5;1(5):e00232-16. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00232-16. eCollection Sep-Oct 2016.


Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are common in the general population, with increased prevalence among military trainees. Previous research has revealed numerous nasal microbial signatures that correlate with SSTI development and Staphylococcus aureus colonization. Thus, we hypothesized that the ecology of the inguinal, oropharynx, and perianal regions may also be altered in response to SSTI and/or S. aureus colonization. We collected body site samples from 46 military trainees with purulent abscess (SSTI group) as well as from 66 asymptomatic controls (non-SSTI group). We also collected abscess cavity samples to assess the microbial composition of these infections. Samples were analyzed by culture, and the microbial communities were characterized by high-throughput sequencing. We found that the nasal, inguinal, and perianal regions were similar in microbial composition and significantly differed from the oropharynx. We also observed differences in Anaerococcus and Streptococcus abundance between the SSTI and non-SSTI groups for the nasal and oropharyngeal regions, respectively. Furthermore, we detected community membership differences between the SSTI and non-SSTI groups for the nasal and inguinal sites. Compared to that of the other regions, the microbial compositions of the nares of S. aureus carriers and noncarriers were dramatically different; we noted an inverse correlation between the presence of Corynebacterium and the presence of Staphylococcus in the nares. This correlation was also observed for the inguinal region. Culture analysis revealed elevated methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) colonization levels for the SSTI group in the nasal and inguinal body sites. Together, these data suggest significant microbial variability in patients with SSTI as well as between S. aureus carriers and noncarriers. IMPORTANCE While it is evident that nasal colonization with S. aureus increases the likelihood of SSTI, there is a significant lack of information regarding the contribution of extranasal colonization to the overall risk of a subsequent SSTI. Furthermore, the impact of S. aureus colonization on bacterial community composition outside the nasal microbiota is unclear. Thus, this report represents the first investigation that utilized both culture and high-throughput sequencing techniques to analyze microbial dysbiosis at multiple body sites of healthy and diseased/colonized individuals. The results described here may be useful in the design of future methodologies to treat and prevent SSTIs.

Keywords: MRSA; SSTI; Staphylococcus aureus; USA300; microbiome.

Grant support

Primary support for this work was provided by a U.S. Department of Defense Program project grant (HT9404-12-1-0019 to D.S.M., M.W.E., and E.R.H.). Additional support for this work was provided by the Department of Defense Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System (GEIS; HU0001-10-1-0018 to M.W.E.) and the Military Infectious Diseases Research Program (MIDRP; HT9404-12-1-0012 to M.W.E. and HT9404-12-1-0021 to E.R.H.). The protocol was executed by the Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program (IDCRP), a Department of Defense (DoD) program executed through the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH), under Inter-Agency Agreement (Y1-AI-5072).