Topographic diversity of fungal and bacterial communities in human skin

 

Abstract:

Traditional culture-based methods have incompletely defined the microbial landscape of common recalcitrant human fungal skin diseases, including athlete’s foot and toenail infections. Skin protects humans from invasion by pathogenic microorganisms and provides a home for diverse commensal microbiota1. Bacterial genomic sequence data have generated novel hypotheses about species and community structures underlying human disorders234. However, microbial diversity is not limited to bacteria; microorganisms such as fungi also have major roles in microbial community stability, human health and disease5. Genomic methodologies to identify fungal species and communities have been limited compared with those that are available for bacteria6. Fungal evolution can be reconstructed with phylogenetic markers, including ribosomal RNA gene regions and other highly conserved genes7. Here we sequenced and analysed fungal communities of 14 skin sites in 10 healthy adults. Eleven core-body and arm sites were dominated by fungi of the genus Malassezia, with only species-level classifications revealing fungal-community composition differences between sites. By contrast, three foot sites—plantar heel, toenail and toe web—showed high fungal diversity. Concurrent analysis of bacterial and fungal communities demonstrated that physiologic attributes and topography of skin differentially shape these two microbial communities. These results provide a framework for future investigation of the contribution of interactions between pathogenic and commensal fungal and bacterial communities to the maintainenace of human health and to disease pathogenesis.

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