March 28, 2013
1 min read

Skin-to-skin contact in roller derby mediated changes in microbiome

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Human to human interactions that occur in contact sports provide an ideal environment for studying the transfer of microorganisms between people and changes in skin microbiome, according to recent study data.

Using women’s roller derby bouts as a model backdrop, researchers studied the transmission of skin microbial communities that often occur during frequent contact. Outcomes focused on whether:

  • team inclusion was predictive of skin microbiomes
  • team-specific microbiomes were altered during competition
  • opposing teams’ skin microbiomes converged, or became more similar, after play

Microbial communities were collected from swabs of players’ upper arms — where skin is exposed and frequently contacted — from both teams after a tournament in 2012. Researchers stored the samples, extracted DNA and amplified a portion of the 16S rRNA gene, including the V4 area. After sequencing and taxonomic class-level analysis, the primary sequences were Actinobacteria (57.9%), Bacilli (23.4%), Gammaproteobacteria(7.4%), Betaproteobacteria (3.7%), Alphaproteobacteria (2.7%) and Clostridia (1.3%).

Before and after playing, researchers found that bacterial communities taken from teammates’ upper arms were different than those of players on the opposing team. This led investigators to conclude that team membership predicted skin microbiomes for an individual player.

Within each team, researchers said players displayed significantly different microbial communities before a bout than those detected afterward. In addition, all players’ skin microbiomes were more similar to each other after competition, based on beta-dispersion tests. Comparisons between teams (before vs. after bouts) showed microbial communities converged (P<.001).

“Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the human skin microbiome shifts in composition during activities that involve human to human contact,” the researchers concluded, “and that contact sports provide an ideal setting in which to evaluate dispersal of microorganisms between people.

“A thorough comprehension of the drivers of the skin microbiome is still emerging; novel approaches to studying our skin ecosystems will likely have lasting implications for health care, disease transmission, and our understanding of urban environment microbiology.”

Disclosure: Researcher Jessica L. Green, PhD, is an academic editor for PeerJ.