Get access

Microbiology of the skin and the role of biofilms in infection


SL Percival, Department of Pathology, Medical School, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, WV 26506-9203, USA


The integrity of human skin is central to the prevention of infection. Acute and chronic wounds can develop when the integrity of skin as a barrier to infection is disrupted. As a multi-functional organ, skin possesses important biochemical and physical properties that influence its microbiology. These properties include a slightly acidic pH, a low moisture content, a high lipid content (which results in increased hydrophobicity) and the presence of antimicrobial peptides. Such factors have a role to play in preventing exogenous microbial colonisation and subsequent infection. In addition, the properties of skin both select for and enhance colonisation and biofilm formation by certain ‘beneficial’ micro-organisms. These beneficial micro-organisms can provide further protection against colonisation by potential pathogens, a process known as colonisation resistance. The aim of this paper is to summarise the microflora of skin and wounds, highlighting the role of certain micro-organisms and biofilms in associated infections.