Close contact skin microbiome smashup

Roller derby scientist Kate Clancy reviews a paper about skin microbiome migration among roller derby teams during matches: “Roller Derby Teammates Give Each Other Bacterial Hugs”.

The authors found that team membership predicted individuals skin microbial communities. They also found a significant difference in the composition of each teams microbial communities, but also that their microbial communities of each individual within a team became more similar, after bouts.
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There are a lot of reasons each of these roller derby teams have microbial community similarities. They are from the same geographic region, they probably practice and live in the same area, some skaters may even live together. There is a high amount of skin contact when they practice, scrimmage and bout together. And, as the authors also point out, exercise produces changes in microbial communities, and these are all pretty highly ranked teams, with elite athletes.

The paper is in the new open access journal PeerJ: “Significant changes in the skin microbiome mediated by the sport of roller derby” Meadow:2013. There has been quite a lot of work previously on the transmission of pathogenic bacteria (like MRSA) in athletes, but I was surprised at how little there has been using the more ecological community approach that is now possible. In particular, I really expected there would have been a lot of similar work on wrestlers. But not yet, apparently. Go derby!