Papers And Originals

Skin Bacteria and Skin Disinfection Reconsidered

Br Med J 1972; 1 doi: (Published 15 January 1972) Cite this as: Br Med J 1972;1:136

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Sydney Selwyn,
  2. Harold Ellis


    Large discrepancies in the available data on skin microbiology stimulated investigations of the number, interactions, and location of commensals and the true efficiency of disinfection by using skin biopsy, culture of frozen sections, and other methods.

    Most current procedures were less than 0·5% as sensitive as the biopsy method described. This gave mean bacterial counts ranging from 4,400/cm2 on the breast to 400,000/cm2 in the axillae. An iodine preparation removed 95% of accessible organisms, but about 20% of bacteria were protected by follicles, crevices, and lipids. Commensals in over 20% of people produced antibiotics against a wide range of pathogens. Conversely, “satellitism” was demonstrable in 12% of people.