Summary: A cryostat sectioning procedure was used to determine quantitative viable counts of microorganisms both on the surface and in successive layers of human cadaver skin biopsies. Also, using a previously described xenograft model, we investigated the dependence of microorganisms on the presence of sebaceous glands by using full thickness (1·5—2·0 mm) and split thickness (0·6 mm, ensuring sebaceous gland exclusion) human skin. Our results show substantial variation in the distribution and abundance of skin bacteria, even amongst biopsies from the same cadaver. In general, propionibacteria were distributed within a narrow band at varying depths beneath the skin surface whereas staphylococci were more broadly distributed. The importance of this with respect to topically applied antiseptics and antimicrobial agents is indicated. The xenograft studies demonstrated that propionibacteria were dependent on the presence of sebaceous glands whereas staphylococci were not.


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