Atopic dermatitis (AD) or eczema is a common inflammatory skin condition in children and affects roughly 5-20% of infants worldwide. The causes of eczema remain unknown, however, the skin microbiome is thought to play a role.
In most cases, AD or eczema is diagnosed through the person’s history of symptoms and by examining or testing the skin. However, it has been suggested that the skin microbiome could be key to the understanding of skin health.
A recent study has done just that. Researchers have developed a non-invasive diagnostic tool for AD and eczema known as the Microbial Indicator of Skin Health (MiSH). The index is based on 25 bacterial genera—the taxonomic ranking above species—in the skin microbiome of children around the world.
The tool helped the team to identify a group of children who did not have any symptoms but had a skin microbiome that had shifted toward a disease state. This group was referred to as the ‘suboptimal health state’ and it indicated that these children may be at risk of developing eczema. Moreover, the study identified that particular strains of Staphylococcus aureus are more prevalent in children with eczema, compared to healthy individuals.
The MiSH, which is based on the skin microbiome, quantitatively assesses paediatric skin health across paediatric groups from distinct countries over large geographic distances. Moreover, the index can identify a risk-prone skin state and compare treatment effect in children, suggesting applications in diagnosis and patient stratification as well as the furthering of personalized treatment.
Although the tool needs further validation it presents an exciting development in the monitoring of skin health, early-identification of skin conditions and treatment beyond AD and eczema.