Study on Human Skin Microbiome Finds Archaea Abundance Associated with Age

archaeal cells
(Left, blue and green images) Fluorescence images of archaeal cells in skin wipe samples; the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at Argonne National Laboratory was used to measure infrared absorption spectra of different Archaea types. (Right, illustration) The hierachical chart of the human skin archaeome with Thaumarchaeota (red), Euryarchaeota (green), and Crenarchaeota (blue). [From Moissl-Eichinger, C., et al. “Human Age and Skin Physiology Shape Diversity and Abundance of Archaea on Skin.” Sci. Rep. 7, 4039 (2017). [DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-04197-4]. Reused under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).]
What’s on your skin? Your skin is crawling with single-celled microorganisms—and they’re not just bacteria. This study found that the skin microbiome also contains the extreme-loving archaea, and that the amount of these microbes varies with age. The microbiome forms a protective layer that protects the body from pathogens. Both genetic and chemical analyses of samples collected from human volunteers ranging in age from 1 to 75 showed that archaea were most abundant in subjects younger than 12 and older than 60. Before the study, the existence of archaea on human skin was unknown, but they are now known to play an important part. The international study also determined that gender was not a factor but that people with dry skin have more archaea. Results from genetic analysis and infrared spectroscopy imaging allowed scientists to link lower levels of oily secretion of sebaceous glands and with increased archaea, most of which have proven to be beneficial.

Moissl-Eichinger, C., et al. “Human Age and Skin Physiology Shape Diversity and Abundance of Archaea on Skin.” Sci. Rep. 7, 4039 (2017). [DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-04197-4].

Instruments and Facilities Used: Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH); quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR); next-generation sequencing; Fourier Transform infrared (FTIR) focal plan array (FPA) hyperspectral imaging. Facilities: Advanced Light Source at the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology Imaging Project; BioTechMed-Graz, the Bavaria California Technology Center.