Sepsis is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in patients that have sustained a severe burn injury. Early detection and treatment of infections improves outcomes and understanding changes in the host microbiome following injury and during treatment may aid in burn care. The loss of functional barriers, systemic inflammation, and commensal community perturbations all contribute to a burn patient’s increased risk of infection. We sampled 10 burn patients to evaluate cutaneous microbial populations on the burn wound and corresponding spared skin on days 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, and 28 post-intensive care unit admission. In addition, skin samples were paired with perianal and rectal locations to evaluate changes in the burn patient gut microbiome following injury and treatment. We found significant (P = 0.011) reduction in alpha diversity on the burn wound compared to spared skin throughout the sampling period as well as reduction in common skin commensal bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermitis. Compared to healthy volunteers (n = 18), the burn patient spared skin also exhibited a significant reduction in alpha diversity (P = 0.001). Treatments such as systemic or topical antibiotic administration, skin grafting, and nutritional formulations also impact diversity and community composition at the sampling locations. When evaluating each subject individually, an increase in relative abundance of taxa isolated clinically by bacterial culture could be seen in 5/9 infections detected among the burn patient cohort.
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