JUN 17, 2018 12:12 PM PDT

Humans & Mammals Have Very Different Skin Microbiomes

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

You may know that humans have many genes in common with other species. New research has shown that one place where we diverge from other organisms, however, is in the composition of the microbiome, the communities of fungi, viruses, and bacteria that live in and on us and animals. This research surprised the scientists, who think these findings may have important implications for the study of health and immunity. The work was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

"We were quite surprised when we saw just how distinct we humans are from almost all other mammals, at least in terms of the skin microbes that we can collect with a swab," said senior study author Josh Neufeld, a professor of biology at the University of Waterloo.

A team of researchers from the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo performed a comprehensive assessment of the microorganisms carried by mammals. They found that the microbes that are present on human skin are far less diverse than what is observed on other mammals. That probably has a lot to do with our typical routines and habitats, which are obviously vastly different from what animals, even those in zoos, experience.

"The first line that gets hit by modern hygienic practices is our skin," explained Ashley Ross, a co-author of the study and a graduate student at Waterloo at the time of the research. "Our skin is the largest organ of the body and the main barrier to the external environment."

Image credit: CDC/Max Pixel

Our environments, including our clothes and bathing habits, probably have a major influence on the microbes that live on human skin. After taking samples from 177 mammals, the investigators connected the environment that a mammal resides in with the microbes on their skin.

In a phenomenon called phylosymbiosis, patterns in the evolution of microbial communities are linked to the evolution of the organisms that host them. That does not necessarily mean organisms evolve along with its microbiome, but it may. The researchers removed humans from their study of phylosymbiosis because our skin microbiomes are so much different from other mammals, but they did find evidence of it.

"We were able to measure phylosymbiosis between some of the mammalian classes and the corresponding communities on their skin," said study co-author Kirsten Müller, a biology professor at Waterloo. "It's exciting that we can still see this signal despite the contribution of habitat to the skin microbial community."

The researchers plan to continue this work. J. Scott Weese, a professor at Guelph, wants to learn more about how skin microbiomes may have coevolved with their hosts. The objective is to find out if that coevolution is driving phylosymbiosis.

Learn more about phylosymbiosis from the video.

Sources: Phys.org via University of Waterloo, PNAS

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 12, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Gut Bacteria Composition Predicts Resposnse to Statins
MAY 12, 2022
Gut Bacteria Composition Predicts Resposnse to Statins
The composition of the gut microbiome is predictive of patient responses to statins. The corresponding study was publish ...
MAY 18, 2022
Immunology
COVID-19, MIS-C & Kawasaki Disease Lead to the Same Immune Response
MAY 18, 2022
COVID-19, MIS-C & Kawasaki Disease Lead to the Same Immune Response
The world has quickly learned that the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes COVID-19. But it can also cause another disorder in child ...
JUN 21, 2022
Immunology
Can Allergy Symptoms be Relieved by Treating Micronutrition Deficiencies?
JUN 21, 2022
Can Allergy Symptoms be Relieved by Treating Micronutrition Deficiencies?
New research has indicated that deficiencies in micronutrients can promote inflammation, and make the immune system more ...
JUN 27, 2022
Microbiology
Giant Bacterium Challenges Our View of Microbes
JUN 27, 2022
Giant Bacterium Challenges Our View of Microbes
A single filament of Ca. Thiomargarita magnifica. can be seen in this image by Jean-Marie Volland
JUL 18, 2022
Microbiology
Two Cases of Deadly Marburg Virus Identified in Ghana
JUL 18, 2022
Two Cases of Deadly Marburg Virus Identified in Ghana
For the first time, Marburg virus has been detected in Ghana after two people died from the disease. Marburg virus is si ...
AUG 01, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Representation in STEM Matters
AUG 01, 2022
Representation in STEM Matters
Amid the increasing conversation regarding diversity and inclusion, it is important to understand the role they both pla ...
Loading Comments...