Comparing different sample collection and storage methods for field-based skin microbiome research

Melissa B. Manus*, Sahana Kuthyar, Ana Gabriela Perroni-Marañón, Alejandra Núñez de la Mora, Katherine R. Amato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: The skin, as well as its microbial communities, serves as the primary interface between the human body and the surrounding environment. In order to implement the skin microbiome into human biology research, there is a need to explore the effects of different sample collection and storage methodologies, including the feasibility of conducting skin microbiome studies in field settings. Methods: We collected 99 skin microbiome samples from nine infants living in Veracruz, Mexico using a dual-tipped “dry” swab on the right armpit, palm, and forehead and a “wet” swab (0.15 M NaCl and 0.1% Tween 20) on the same body parts on the left side of the body. One swab from each collection method was stored in 95% ethanol while the other was frozen at −20°C. 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing generated data on bacterial diversity and community composition, which were analyzed using PERMANOVA, linear mixed effects models, and an algorithm-based classifier. Results: Treatment (wet_ethanol, wet_freezer, dry_ethanol, and dry_freezer) had an effect (~10% explanatory power) on the bacterial community diversity and composition of skin samples, although body site exhibited a stronger effect (~20% explanatory power). Within treatments, the collection method (wet vs. dry) affected measures of bacterial diversity to a greater degree than did the storage method (ethanol vs. freezer). Conclusions: Our study provides novel information on skin microbiome sample collection and storage methods, suggesting that ethanol storage is suitable for research in resource-limited settings. Our results highlight the need for future study design to account for interbody site microbial variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23584
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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