Skin microbiome

Hand sanitizers and skin microbiome

Skin microbiome sampling
Christine Drengenes

Main content

The covid-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the use of hand-sanitizers (e.g. antibac) in our daily routine. While meant as a preventative measure towards reducing the transmission of coronavirus, the commensal bacteria naturally residing on the skin (i.e. the skin microbiota) are likely also affected.

In this project we will try to address the question of how hand-sanitizer use affects the skin microbiota – both in the short and long term.

The short-term effect of hand-sanitizer use on skin microbiota will be studied with skin swab samples collected immediately before and after the use of hand-sanitizer. Bacterial composition will be determined using 16S rRNA marker-gene sequencing. With these data we will be able to answer several questions including: Are some bacteria more likely to be affected by the bactericidal effect of hand-sanitizer than others? Are there inherent properties associated with certain bacteria that explain resilience?

The long-term effects of hand-sanitizer use will be studied using the RHINESSA study population (www.rhinessa.net), for which skin swab samples have been collected before (2013) and during (2020-2021) the covid-19 pandemic together with questionnaire data on changes in hygiene habits. Skin swab samples were analyzed with 16S rRNA marker-gene sequencing. Questions we will address include – Has frequent use of hand-sanitizer led to a long-lasting alteration of the bacterial communities on the skin?