The skin microbiome contains a diverse microbial ecosystem — seeded at birth!

Toni Harman
3 min readApr 26, 2021

This is a fascinating new editorially independent supplement published by Nature on the skin microbiome.

As the article explains, the skin microbiome is a diverse complex microbial ecosystem.

Typically, a person has approximately 1,000 species of bacteria on their skin. And it takes up a large area — approx two square metres for the average adult.

The whole process of colonising the skin microbiome starts at birth — ideally with the baby being held skin-to-skin on the mother’s chest to transfer microbes from the mother’s skin to the baby’s skin.

There are two things I learned from this article:

1. The skin microbiome evolves from birth until a person reaches sexual maturity.

2. The role of the skin microbiome in the immune system and dermatological health.

“The skin microbiome is seeded at birth. The first microbial colonists help to train the immune system to tolerate commensal organisms (which have a neutral or beneficial impact on their host) while remaining alert to pathogens. These microbial communities continue to grow and diversify until puberty, when hormonal and developmental changes help to sculpt the final composition that is carried throughout adulthood. “

Science reference:

Summary of graphics: >>

Explanation of the skin microbiome: >>

Nature 588, S210-S211 (2020) doi:

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Science references (from the Nature supplement)

Byrd, A., Belkaid, Y. & Segre, J. Nature Rev. Microbiol. 16, 143–155 (2018). doi: 10.1038/nrmicro.2017.157

Flowers, L. & Grice, E. A. Cell Host Microbe 28, 190–200 (2020). doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2020.06.017.

Scharschmidt, T. C. et al. Immunity 43, 1011–1021 (2015). doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2015.10.016.

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Toni Harman

I help parents and health professionals better understand the science of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the microbiome.