Research confirms S. epidermidis has a pathogenic role in compromised skin

University of San Diego and cosmetic ingredients supplier Silab unveil results of research into compromised skin microbiota

Scanning electron micrograph of a clump of Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria (green). Credit: NIAID

The role of the opportunistic, pathogenic bacteria Staphylococcus aureus in skin diseases is well known.

However, new findings also support the likelihood of a pathogenic role for Staphylococcus epidermidis – a common commensal bacterium generally associated with good skin health – in compromised skin.

This discovery, the result of collaborative research between cosmetic ingredients supplier Silab and the University of San Diego (UCSD), built on the work of studies reporting an overpresentation of S. epidermidis on compromised lesional skin.

The objective of the work, which was carried out by a team led by Dr Richard Gallo, Distinguished Professor and Founding Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at UCSD, was to identify the role and mechanism of action of S. aureus and S. epidermidis in the pathogenesis of two inflammatory skin diseases: Netherton syndrome and atopic dermatitis.

They found that the harmful effects of the two species result from interspecies communication via a sophisticated system known as quorum sensing, which allows for the synchronisation of proteases secretion specific to each bacterial population.

These virulence factors are said to exacerbate the alterations in epidermal barrier function and inflammatory phenomenon that are characteristic of Netherton syndrome and atopic dermatitis.

“These discoveries highlight the considerable influence of the interspecies communication within the epidermal ecosystem on skin health,” said Laura Cau, who was involved in the UCSD project as part of scientific international volunteering funded by Silab.

“They strengthen the understanding of the role of commensal microbiota in the development of inflammatory skin diseases.”

This research was published in the scientific journals Cell Reports and The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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