Viability-Resolved Metagenomics Reveals Antagonistic Colonization Dynamics of Staphylococcus epidermidis Strains on Preterm Infant Skin

mSphere. 2021 Sep 15:e0053821. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00538-21. Online ahead of print.


Preterm infants are at increased risk of infections caused by coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) that colonize skin. Technical barriers in sequencing low-microbial-biomass skin swabs from preterm infants hinder attempts to gain a strain-level understanding of CoNS colonization dynamics within their developing skin microbiome. Here, the microbiome of five skin sites and available stool was studied from four preterm infants hospitalized over their first 2 months of life. We used propidium monoazide treatment of samples to enrich for the viable microbiome and metagenomic shotgun sequencing to resolve species and strains. The microbiome of different skin sites overlapped with each other, was dominated by the CoNS species Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus capitis, and was distinct from stool. Species diversity on skin increased over time despite antibiotic exposure. Evidence of antagonism between the most common S. epidermidis strains, ST2 and ST59, included negative relationships for species correlation networks and in situ replication rates and that ST2 colonized skin earlier but was often replaced by ST59 over time. Experiments done with reference isolates showed that ST2 produced more biofilm than ST59 on plastic surfaces, which was reduced in mixed culture. We also discovered that a rare S. epidermidis strain, ST5, grew rapidly in stool in association with Stenotrophomonas maltophilia from a suspected episode of infection. Viability treatment of samples and moderate throughput shotgun sequencing provides strain-level information about CoNS colonization dynamics of preterm infant skin that ultimately might be exploited to prevent infections. IMPORTANCE The skin is a habitat for microbes that commonly infect preterm infants, but the use of sequencing for fine-scale study of the microbial communities of skin that develop in these infants has been limited by technical barriers. We treated skin swabs of preterm infants with a photoreactive dye that eliminates DNA from nonviable microbes and then sequenced the remaining DNA. We found that two strains of the most common species, Staphylococcus epidermidis, showed an antagonistic relationship on skin by cooccurring with different species, replicating fastest in different samples, and dominating skin sites at different times. Representatives of these strains also differed in their ability to stick to plastic surfaces-an important pathogenicity trait of this species. Our study shows the feasibility of gaining detailed information about strain colonization dynamics from this difficult-to-sequence body site of preterm infants, which might be used to guide novel approaches to prevent infections.

PMID:34523979 | DOI:10.1128/mSphere.00538-21


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