Combined culture and metagenomic analyses reveal significant shifts in the composition of the cutaneous microbiome in psoriasis

E. A. Langan, A. Künstner, M. Miodovnik, D. Zillikens, D. Thaçi, J. F. Baines, S. M. Ibrahim, W. Solbach, J. K. Knobloch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: The treatment of psoriasis has been revolutionized by the development of biologic therapies. However, the pathogenesis of psoriasis, in particular the role of the cutaneous microbiome, remains incompletely understood. Moreover, skin microbiome studies have relied heavily on 16S rRNA sequencing data in the absence of bacterial culture. Objectives: To characterize and compare the cutaneous microbiome in 20 healthy controls and 23 patients with psoriasis using metagenomic analyses and to determine changes in the microbiome during treatment. Methods: Swabs from lesional and nonlesional skin from patients with psoriasis, and from controls matched for site and skin microenvironment, were analysed using both 16S rRNA sequencing and traditional culture combined with mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF) in a prospective study. Results: Psoriasis was associated with an increased abundance of Firmicutes and a corresponding reduction in Actinobacteria, most marked in lesional skin, and at least partially reversed during systemic treatment. Shifts in bacterial community composition in lesional sites were reflected in similar changes in culturable bacteria, although changes in the microbiota over repeated swabbing were detectable only with sequencing. The composition of the microbial communities varied by skin site and microenvironment. Prevotella and Staphylococcus were significantly associated with lesional skin, and Anaerococcus and Propionibacterium with nonlesional skin. There were no significant differences in the amount of bacteria cultured from the skin of healthy controls and patients with psoriasis. Conclusions: Shifts in the cutaneous microbiome in psoriasis, particularly during treatment, may shed new light on the pathogenesis of the disease and may be clinically exploited to predict treatment response. What's already known about this topic?. Alterations in the composition of the cutaneous microbiome have been described in psoriasis, although methodological differences in study design prevent direct comparison of results. To date, most cutaneous microbiome studies have focused on 16S rRNA sequencing data, including both living and dead bacteria. What does this study add?. This prospective observational study confirms that changes in the composition of the cutaneous microbiome, detected by 16S rRNA sequencing, are consistent with those identified by bacterial culture and mass spectrometry. The changes in the microbiome during antipsoriasis therapy should be further investigated to determine whether these represent potential novel biomarkers of treatment response. What is the translational message?. Characterization of cutaneous microbiota may ultimately move into the clinic to help facilitate treatment selection, not only by optimizing currently available treatments, but also by identifying new therapeutic targets.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1254-1264
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019


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