Scientific reports. 2018-06-13; 8.1: 9017.

Spatial and Environmental Variation of the Human Hair Microbiota

Brinkac L, Clarke TH, Singh H, Greco C, Gomez A, Torralba MG, Frank B, Nelson KE

PMID: 29899411


The skin is a complex living ecosystem harboring diverse microbial communities. Its highly variable properties and influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors creates unique microenvironments where niche-specific microbes thrive. As part of the skin, hair supports its own microbial habitat that is also intra and inter-personal variable. This little explored substrate has significant potential in forensics microbiome research due to the unique signatures that are available on an individual. To further investigate this, we explored the hair microbiota from scalp and pubic regions in healthy adults to investigate how the hair shaft microenvironment varies microbially. Our results suggest that there are distinct differences between the microbial communities identified on hair shafts originating from different parts of the body. The taxonomic composition of the communities from different hair sources are most reminiscent of those identified from their associated cutaneous region. We further demonstrate that the hair microbiota varies by geographical origin and has the potential to be used to predict the source location of the hair.