Insights into the skin microbiome of sickle cell disease leg ulcers

Julia Byeon, Katherine D. Blizinsky, Anitra Persaud, Keisha Findley, Jung Jin Lee, Ashley J. Buscetta, Shuo You, Kyle Bittinger, Caterina P. Minniti, Vence L. Bonham, Elizabeth A. Grice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Leg ulcers are estimated to occur in 1%–10% of North American patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). Their pathophysiology remains poorly defined, but as with other chronic wounds, it is hypothesised that the microbial milieu, or microbiome, contributes to their healing and clinical outcomes. This study utilises 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequencing to describe, for the first time, the microbiome of the SCD leg ulcer and its association with clinical factors. In a cross-sectional analysis of 42 ulcers, we recovered microbial profiles similar to other chronic wounds in the predominance of anaerobic bacteria and opportunistic pathogens including Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium, and Finegoldia. Ulcers separated into two clusters: one defined by predominance of Staphylococcus and smaller surface area, and the other displaying a greater diversity of taxa and larger surface area. We also find that the relative abundance of Porphyromonas is negatively associated with haemoglobin levels, a key clinical severity indicator for SCD, and that Finegoldia relative abundance is negatively associated with CD19+ B cell count. Finally, ratios of Corynebacterium:Lactobacillus and Staphylococcus:Lactobacillus are elevated in the intact skin of individuals with a history of SCD leg ulcers, while the ratio of Lactobacillus:Bacillus is elevated in that of individuals without a history of ulcers. Investigations of the skin microbiome in relation to SCD ulcer pathophysiology can inform clinical guidelines for this poorly understood chronic wound, as well as enhance broader understanding about the role of the skin microbiome in delayed wound healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-809
Number of pages9
JournalWound Repair and Regeneration
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • 16S rRNA
  • chronic wound
  • leg ulcer
  • sickle cell disease
  • skin microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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