The infantile cutaneous microbiome: A review

Pediatr Dermatol. 2019 Sep;36(5):574-580. doi: 10.1111/pde.13870. Epub 2019 Jul 23.


Recent focus on the neonatal intestinal microbiome has advanced our knowledge of the complex interplay between the intestinal barrier, the developing immune system, and commensal and pathogenic organisms. Despite the parallel role of the infant skin in serving as both a barrier and an interface for priming the immune system, large gaps exist in our understanding of the infantile cutaneous microbiome. The skin microbiome changes and matures throughout infancy, becoming more diverse and developing the site specificity known to exist in adults. Delivery method initially determines the composition of the cutaneous microbiome, though this impact appears transient. Cutaneous microbes play a critical role in immune system development, particularly during the neonatal period, and microbes and immune cells have closely intertwined, reciprocal effects. The unique structure of newborn skin influences cutaneous microbial colonization and the development of dermatologic pathology. The development of the infantile skin barrier and cutaneous microbiome contributes to future skin pathology. Atopic dermatitis flares and seborrheic dermatitis have been linked to dysbiosis, while erythema toxicum neonatorum is an immune response to the establishment of normal bacterial skin flora. Physicians who care for infants should be aware of the impact of the infantile skin microbiome and its role in the development of pathology. A better understanding of the origin and evolution of the skin microbiome will lead to more effective prevention and treatment of pediatric skin disease.

Keywords: atopic dermatitis; erythema toxicum neonatorum; infant; microbiome; neonatal cutaneous microbiome; seborrheic dermatitis; skin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Microbiota*
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Skin Diseases / etiology*