Archaeal Abundance on Human Skin Associates with Age


(Left, blue and green images) Fluorescence images of archaeal cells in skin wipe samples; the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at Argonne National Laboratory was used to measure infrared absorption spectra of different Archaea types. (Right, illustration) The hierarchical chart of the human skin archaeome with Thaumarchaeota (red), Euryarchaeota (green), and Crenarchaeota (blue). [From Moissl-Eichinger, C., et al. (2017). DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-04197-4. Reused under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0,]

Your skin is covered with single-celled microorganisms—and they’re not just bacteria. This study found that the skin microbiome also includes archaea, and that their abundance varies with age.

The skin microbiome forms a layer that protects the body from pathogens. Both genetic and chemical analyses of samples collected from human volunteers ranging in age from 1 to 75 years showed that archaea were most abundant in subjects younger than 12 and older than 60. Before the study, the existence of archaea on human skin was unknown, but they are now known to play an important role.

The international study also determined that gender was not a factor in archaeal abundance, but that people with dry skin have more. Results from genetic analysis and infrared spectroscopy imaging allowed scientists to link lower levels of oily secretion of sebaceous glands with increased archaea, most of which are beneficial.

Instruments and Facilities

Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH); quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR); next-generation sequencing; Fourier Transform infrared (FTIR) focal plan array (FPA) hyperspectral imaging. Facilities: Advanced Light Source at the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology Imaging Project; BioTechMed-Graz, the Bavaria California Technology Center.

Funding Acknowledgements

Support: BioTechMed-Graz, the Bavaria California Technology Center (BaCaTeC), and University of Regensburg. AJP support: German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes). Infrared (IR) support: Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology (BSISB) Program, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), funded by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (OBER), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Advanced Light Source (ALS) at LBNL support: Office of Basic Energy Sciences (OBES), Director, DOE Office of Science, through Contract DE-AC02-225 05CH11231.


Moissl-Eichinger, C., et al. “Human Age and Skin Physiology Shape Diversity and Abundance of Archaea on Skin.” Sci. Rep. 7, 4039 (2017). [DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-04197-4].