A single square centimetre of the human skin can contain up to one billion microorganisms. These diverse communities of bacteria, fungi, mites and viruses can provide protection against disease, but can also exacerbate skin lesions, promote disease and delay wound healing. This review addresses the current knowledge surrounding the healthy skin microbiome and examines how different alterations to the skin microbial communities can contribute to disease. Current methodologies are considered, changes in microbial diversity and colonisation by specific microorganisms are discussed in the context of atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne vulgaris and chronic wounds. The recent impact of modern Westernised lifestyles on the human skin microbiome is also examined, as well as the potential benefits and pitfalls of novel therapeutic strategies. Further analysis of the human skin microbiome, and its interactions with the host immune system and other commensal microorganisms, will undoubtedly elucidate molecular mechanisms for disease and reveal gateways for novel therapeutic treatment strategies.
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