For immediate release ‐ January 13, 2016
Contact: Jon Pishney, 919.707.8083. Images available upon request
Skin microbes play a role in human body odor, health and disease. Compared to gut microbes, we know comparatively little about the changes in the composition of skin microbes in response to evolutionary changes in hosts, or more recent behavioral and cultural changes in humans. No studies have used sequence-based approaches to consider the skin microbe communities of gorillas and chimpanzees, for example. Until now.
A recent research project led by Sarah Council, Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Museum’s Genomics and Microbiology Lab and in the Center for Science, Math and Technology Education at North Carolina Central University, and Dr. Julie Horvath, Head of the Genomics and Microbiology Research Lab and Research Associate Professor at NC Central University, compares the microbial associates of non-human primates with those of humans, offering unique insights into both the ancient and modern features of our skin-associated microbes. Their findings, which appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B in January, describe the microbes found on the skin of humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, rhesus macaques and baboons. “We focused on the bacterial residents in the armpit using high-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene,” says Council. “We found that human skin microbial communities are unique relative to those of other primates, both in terms of their diversity and composition. These differences appear to reflect both ancient shifts during millions of years of primate evolution and more recent changes due to modern hygiene.”
The full paper, “Diversity and evolution of the primate skin microbiome,” is available to read and download at: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/cgi/content/abstract/rspb.2015.2586.