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.1

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

The microbiome and the immune system

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.1 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

Microbiome imbalances

Researchers have found a link between psoriasis and an imbalance in the microbiome. While those who have psoriasis have the typical microbes found in a healthy microbiome, they have a different balance in those microbes. Microbiomes of psoriasis patients tend to have less diversity, especially in the area of a psoriatic lesion. Researchers are still studying whether this lack of diversity is caused by psoriasis, but believe that psoriasis progression is not linked to microbiome changes.1

Microbiome research

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 the beginning stages, they do hold promise for safer, more effective treatments for these chronic skin conditions.

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