The Microbiome in Dermatology
Your skin is your largest organ, with a specific purpose of protecting your insides from the outside world. It is a barrier against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microscopic creatures, such as mites and archaea.
While all of these microbes would be dangerous inside your body, they actually serve a purpose on the outside of your skin, living in harmony with your body in a mutually beneficial relationship. This group of harmonious microbes and their genetic material is known as the microbiome.
What do we know about microbes today?
Although we have known about the microbiome since the late 17th century, it has only been in the past two decades that we have been able to study it in more depth. The advances in DNA and RNA sequencing have given scientists the ability to identify the microbes in ways that were unavailable before. Scientists have discovered microbes that are associated with the parts of the body that are dry or moist, that are associated with where people live, their age, and even their diets.1
What's the relationship between microbes and the skin?
This relationship benefits the microorganisms with a habitat as well as the bodies that they live on. These microbes benefit the immune system, protect the skin against other bacteria, and may help the body to reduce inflammation as a result of their byproducts. Changes or imbalances in the microbiome may lead to dermatological disorders.
When do microbes start inhabiting the skin?
Your microbiome starts with your birth and is different if you are born naturally than if you are born via C-section. As you age, your microbiome changes with you, such as during puberty when skin changes and tends to get oilier. The microbiome of damp areas, such as the groin and armpit tends to be more stable than dry areas such as the arms and legs, which can vary regularly.1
Atopic dermatitis and the microbiome
Researchers have found a link between atopic dermatitis (AD) and the microbiome. Researchers have proposed that a reduced contact with bacteria, due to frequent bathing and antibacterial soaps, may be reducing immune tolerance. This may lead to immune conditions such as AD.
AD is also associated with colonization of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that is more commonly held in check by a healthy microbiome. Unlike psoriasis patients, AD progression is linked to microbiome changes, specifically the decrease in diversity.1
The future of microbiomes
As researchers learn more about the microbiome and how it interacts with dermatological diseases, there is an opportunity to better treat these conditions. Researchers are already using probiotics to see if changes in gut microbes affect skin microbes. Researchers have also used experimental bacteria therapy to treat AD.2
These studies pave the way for better treatments for dermatological conditions that are affected by the microbiome. While these studies are in beginning stages, they do hold promise for safer, more effective treatments for these chronic skin conditions.
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