Psoriasis and eczema: impoverished skin microbiome as a trigger?

Psoriasis and eczema: impoverished skin microbiome as a trigger?

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What role does the skin microbiome play in environmental diseases?

So-called environmental diseases of the skin such as psoriasis or neurodermatitis have increased significantly in recent decades. Damage to the natural skin microbiome is increasingly suspected as a trigger. This protective layer of the skin acts like a barrier that is in direct contact with the environment. But research into the skin microbiome is still in its infancy.

Researchers at the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel have set themselves the goal of shedding more light on the microbiome of the skin and the role of the microbial community in the development of skin diseases, particularly environmental diseases. Its first results were recently published in the specialist journal "The ISME Journal".

The skin's microbiome is currently a mystery

The western lifestyle and the progressive distance from nature causes the variety of microbial colonization of the body to decrease significantly. More and more research groups see this depletion of the microbiome as the reason for inflammatory clinical pictures of the skin, which often manifest as psoriasis or neurodermatitis. The skin microbiome is therefore an important potential therapeutic target for environmental diseases, but the level of knowledge about this microbial community is currently very limited.

What was examined?

The team used different mouse models for its basic research. The scientists wanted to find out how the skin microbiome in wild mice differs from the microbiome in laboratory mice. The skin microbiome was examined by a total of 200 wild mice from around 30 different habitats. This was compared to the microbiome of laboratory mice living in hygienic environments. On this basis, improved dermatological models for humans will be created in the future.

Basic composition was similar

As a first fundamental finding, the team led by Professor John Baines discovered that the general composition of the microorganisms on the skin in wild animals and laboratory mice shows great similarities, although the living conditions differ radically from one another. This indicates that a large part of the settlement is controlled by the host.

"This global agreement suggests that, despite a large pool of microorganisms that can be used to colonize the environment, a relatively similar and stable composition of microorganisms settles on the skin of the animals," emphasizes study author Dr. Meriem Belheouane. This process appears to be independent of the actual living conditions and living spaces.

The difference is in the details

However, there were some differences: The skin of wild mice had some microbes that appear to be dependent on the habitat. Above all within the Staphylococcus bacterial genus there were deviations between the laboratory mice and wild animals. The differences indicate that certain bacteria only develop depending on the habitat in order to perform certain functions within the microbiome.

What does this mean for humans?

This model provides important foundations that contribute to a better understanding of the skin microbiome. In the future, it will be investigated how the microbiome of human skin in the sick state differs from the skin in the healthy state. The mice also provide the first clues as to why wild animals have different immune characteristics than laboratory mice. "The new findings can thus help advance biomedical skin research and represent a further step in the direction of future therapeutic interventions based on the skin microbiome," summarizes Baines. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel: Wild animals allow new insights into the skin microbiome (published: June 18, 2020),
  • Meriem Belheouane, Marie Vallier, Aleksa Čepić, Cecilia J. Chung, Saleh Ibrahim, John F. Baines: Assessing similarities and disparities in the skin microbiota between wild- and laboratory populations of house mice; in: The ISME Journal, 2020,

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