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Objective skin microbiome measure for evaluating AD

Researchers have developed a microbial index of skin health (MiSH) they say can be used as an objective, quantitative measure of skin health that may have the potential to diagnose atopic dermatitis (AD), assess risk-prone state of skin, and predict treatment response in children in many different regional environments.

The findings were published in mSystems (Aug. 20, 2019; 4(4)pii: e00293–19).

One challenge with studying the human microbiome is that the skin microbiome differs between human populations due to environment, health status, body locations, diet and other mitigating factors, according to the paper’s authors.

“Due to the variance, the ability to use skin microbiome as an indicator of skin health that applies across large geographic ranges has remained largely unexplored,” said Xu Jian, PhD, senior author of the paper, in a press release. Dr. Xu is the director of the Single-Cell Center and Shandong Key Laboratory of Energy Genetics at the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

“As such, the central question of this study is: can we harness the talent and power of our skin microbiome for precise skin care, such as diagnosis and treatment?”

Dr. Xu and his team collaborated with Procter & Gamble, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and San Diego (UCSD), assessed children from several cities with healthy skin and those with atopic dermatitis (AD).

MiSH is a universal scale to quantitatively assess and compare skin-health state via skin microbiota.-Photo by Sun Zheng

Researchers examined children in three different cities: Beijing and Qingdao in China and Denver, Colo. in the United States. Qingdao is a coastal city approximately seven hours drive north of Beijing. Denver is a mountain city, with a higher elevation than the other two cities.

In these environmentally different locations, the researchers identified 25 bacterial genera in the skin microbiomes of children and developed their MiSH.

Lead author Sun Zheng, of the Single-Cell Center and Shandong Key Laboratory of Energy Genetics, Qingdao Institute of BioEnergy and Bioprocess Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao, Shandong, China, said in the release that this index can identify skin conditions, such as AD, and has implications in clinical settings.

The authors report that MiSH identifies AD with an 83% to 95% accuracy within each city and with 86.4% accuracy across all cities.

“MiSH can quantitatively assess pediatric skin health across cohorts from distinct countries over large geographic distances,” Sun said, explaining that index serves to compare skin health via the microbes that live on the skin. “MiSH can identify a risk-prone skin state and predict treatment effect in children, suggesting applications in patient stratification and personalized treatment in the clinics and in the skin care industry.”

The next planned step for the research team is to further study the mechanisms by which the index helps predict skin health and refine how well it predicts treatment response in larger and wider cohorts.

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