THE DYNAMICS OF MICROBIAL TRANSFER AND PERSISTENCE ON HUMAN SKIN
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The skin microbiome is a critical component of human health, however, little is understood about the daily dynamics of skin microbiome community assembly and the skin’s potential to acquire microorganisms from the external environment. I performed a series of microbial transfers using three skin habitat types (dry, moist, sebaceous) on human subject volunteers. Microbial communities were transferred to recipient skin using a sterile swab 1) from other skin sites on the same individual, 2) from other skin sites on a different individual, 3) and from two environmental donor sources (plant leaf surfaces and farm soil). With these experiments I was able to test for the presence of initial transfer effects and for the persistence of those effects over the time period sampled (2-, 4-, 8-, and 24-hours post-transfer). The sebaceous skin community was associated with the strongest initial effect of transfer and persistence on the moist recipient skin site, and to a lesser extent the dry skin site. The soil donor community when transferred to dry skin resulted in the strongest initial transfer effect and was persistent over 8- and even 24-hours post-transfer. These experiments are the first in scope and scale to directly demonstrate that dispersal from other human or environmental microbial communities are plausible drivers of community dynamics in the skin microbiome.