Use of Autologous Bacteriotherapy to Treat Staphylococcus aureus in Patients With Atopic Dermatitis: A Randomized Double-blind Clinical Trial

JAMA Dermatol. 2021 Jun 16;157(8):978-982. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2021.1311. Online ahead of print.


Importance: Atopic dermatitis (AD) can be negatively affected by Staphylococcus aureus. The skin microbiome of AD is deficient in coagulase-negative Staphylococcus (CoNS) that can kill S aureus.

Objective: To evaluate if the antimicrobial-producing CoNS (CoNS-AM+) of a patient with AD can be autologously reintroduced to the same patient to inhibit survival of S aureus and improve clinical outcomes.

Design, setting, and participants: This double-blind, vehicle-controlled, single-center randomized clinical trial of 11 adult patients with moderate to severe AD who were randomized to receive either an autologous CoNS-AM+ (n = 5) or the vehicle (n = 6) was conducted between April 2016 and May 2018. The data were analyzed from May 2018 to July 2019.

Interventions: Autologous CoNS-AM+ was isolated from swabs that were obtained from the nonlesional skin of each patient with AD, expanded by culture, and then reapplied topically to the forearms at a concentration of 107 colony-forming units/g.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary end point of this study was to assess S aureus abundance after 1 week of application of autologous CoNS-AM+ on patients with AD by culture-based and DNA-based methods. The secondary end points were to assess the safety and clinical outcomes.

Results: Eleven patients (4 men [36.4%] and 7 women [63/6%]) were recruited based on the inclusion criteria. There were no serious adverse events in groups treated with autologous CoNS-AM+ or the vehicle. Staphylococcus aureus colonization on lesional skin at the end of treatment on patients who were treated with autologous CoNS-AM+ (mean of log10 ratio to baseline, -1.702; 95% CI, -2.882 to -0.523) was reduced by 99.2% compared with vehicle treatment (mean of log10 ratio to baseline, 0.671; 95% CI, -0.289 to 1.613; P = .01) and persisted for 4 days after treatment (CoNS-AM+: mean of log10 ratio to baseline, -1.752; 95% CI, -3.051 to -0.453; vehicle: mean of log10 ratio to baseline, -0.003; 95% CI, -1.083 to 1.076; P = .03). Importantly, local Eczema Area And Severity Index scores that were assessed at day 11 on patients who received CoNS-AM+ (mean of percentage change, -48.45; 95% CI, -84.34 to -12.55) were significantly improved compared with vehicle treatment (mean of percentage change, -4.52; 95% CI, -36.25 to 27.22; P = .04).

Conclusions and relevance: The data from this randomized clinical trial suggest that bacteriotherapy with an autologous strain of skin commensal bacteria can safely decrease S aureus colonization and improve disease severity. Although larger studies will be needed, this personalized approach for S aureus reduction may provide an alternative treatment for patients with AD beyond antibiotics, immunosuppression, and immunomodulation.

Trial registration: Identifier: NCT03158012.

Associated data