Inflammatory cytokines and biofilm production sustain Staphylococcus aureus outgrowth and persistence: a pivotal interplay in the pathogenesis of Atopic Dermatitis

Sci Rep. 2018 Jun 28;8(1):9573. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27421-1.


Individuals with Atopic dermatitis (AD) are highly susceptible to Staphylococcus aureus colonization. However, the mechanisms driving this process as well as the impact of S. aureus in AD pathogenesis are still incompletely understood. In this study, we analysed the role of biofilm in sustaining S. aureus chronic persistence and its impact on AD severity. Further we explored whether key inflammatory cytokines overexpressed in AD might provide a selective advantage to S. aureus. Results show that the strength of biofilm production by S. aureus correlated with the severity of the skin lesion, being significantly higher (P < 0.01) in patients with a more severe form of the disease as compared to those individuals with mild AD. Additionally, interleukin (IL)-β and interferon γ (IFN-γ), but not interleukin (IL)-6, induced a concentration-dependent increase of S. aureus growth. This effect was not observed with coagulase-negative staphylococci isolated from the skin of AD patients. These findings indicate that inflammatory cytokines such as IL1-β and IFN-γ, can selectively promote S. aureus outgrowth, thus subverting the composition of the healthy skin microbiome. Moreover, biofilm production by S. aureus plays a relevant role in further supporting chronic colonization and disease severity, while providing an increased tolerance to antimicrobials.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coagulase / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / metabolism*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / microbiology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Oxacillin / pharmacology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Skin / pathology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Coagulase
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Oxacillin