Metagenomic inferences of bacterial strain diversity and infectious disease transmission studies largely assume a dominant, within-individual haplotype. We hypothesize that within-individual bacterial population diversity is critical for homeostasis of a healthy microbiome and infection risk. We characterized the evolutionary trajectory and functional distribution of Staphylococcus epidermidis-a keystone skin microbe and opportunistic pathogen. Analyzing 1,482 S. epidermidis genomes from 5 healthy individuals, we found that skin S. epidermidis isolates coalesce into multiple founder lineages rather than a single colonizer. Transmission events, natural selection, and pervasive horizontal gene transfer result in population admixture within skin sites and dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes within-individual. We provide experimental evidence for how admixture can modulate virulence and metabolism. Leveraging data on the contextual microbiome, we assess how interspecies interactions can shape genetic diversity and mobile gene elements. Our study provides insights into how within-individual evolution of human skin microbes shapes their functional diversification.
Keywords: Staphylococcus epidermidis; genomic variation; metagenomics; microevolution; skin microbiome; strain diversity.
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