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PLoS One. 2010 May 17;5(5):e10598. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010598.

The human nasal microbiota and Staphylococcus aureus carriage.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, United States of America.



Colonization of humans with Staphylococcus aureus is a critical prerequisite of subsequent clinical infection of the skin, blood, lung, heart and other deep tissues. S. aureus persistently or intermittently colonizes the nares of approximately 50% of healthy adults, whereas approximately 50% of the general population is rarely or never colonized by this pathogen. Because microbial consortia within the nasal cavity may be an important determinant of S. aureus colonization we determined the composition and dynamics of the nasal microbiota and correlated specific microorganisms with S. aureus colonization.


Nasal specimens were collected longitudinally from five healthy adults and a cross-section of hospitalized patients (26 S. aureus carriers and 16 non-carriers). Culture-independent analysis of 16S rRNA sequences revealed that the nasal microbiota of healthy subjects consists primarily of members of the phylum Actinobacteria (e.g., Propionibacterium spp. and Corynebacterium spp.), with proportionally less representation of other phyla, including Firmicutes (e.g., Staphylococcus spp.) and Proteobacteria (e.g. Enterobacter spp). In contrast, inpatient nasal microbiotas were enriched in S. aureus or Staphylococcus epidermidis and diminished in several actinobacterial groups, most notably Propionibacterium acnes. Moreover, within the inpatient population S. aureus colonization was negatively correlated with the abundances of several microbial groups, including S. epidermidis (p = 0.004).


The nares environment is colonized by a temporally stable microbiota that is distinct from other regions of the integument. Negative association between S. aureus, S. epidermidis, and other groups suggests microbial competition during colonization of the nares, a finding that could be exploited to limit S. aureus colonization.

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