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Crowdsourced Data Indicate Widespread Multidrug Resistance in Skin Flora of Healthy Young Adults †

TitleCrowdsourced Data Indicate Widespread Multidrug Resistance in Skin Flora of Healthy Young Adults †
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsFang FC, Gast CM, Koval M, Harrington RD, Freeman S, Parks JW, Okoroafor NO, Nowowiejski D, Connor E’
JournalJournal of Microbiology & Biology Education
Pagination172 - 182
Date Published01/2016

In a laboratory exercise for undergraduate biology majors, students plated bacteria from swabs of their facial skin under conditions that selected for coagulase-negative Staphylococcus; added disks containing the antibiotics penicillin, oxacillin, tetracycline, and erythromycin; and measured zones of inhibition. Students also recorded demographic and lifestyle variables and merged this information with similar data collected from 9,000 other students who had contributed to the database from 2003 to 2011. Minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) testing performed at the Harborview Medical Center Microbiology Laboratory (Seattle, WA) indicated a high degree of accuracy for student-generated data; species identification with a matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) Biotyper revealed that over 88% of the cells analyzed by students were S. epidermidis or S. capitus. The overall frequency of resistant cells was high, ranging from 13.2% of sampled bacteria resistant to oxacillin to 61.7% resistant to penicillin. Stepwise logistic regressions suggested that recent antibiotic use was strongly associated with resistance to three of the four antibiotics tested (p = 0.0003 for penicillin, p < 0.0001 for erythromycin and tetracycline), and that age, gender, use of acne medication, use of antibacterial soaps, or makeup use were associated with resistance to at least one of the four antibiotics. Furthermore, drug resistance to one antibiotic was closely linked to resistance to the other three antibiotics in every case (all p values < 0.0001), suggesting the involvement of multidrug-resistant strains. The data reported here suggest that citizen science could not only provide an important educational experience for undergraduates, but potentially play a role in efforts to expand antibiotic resistance (ABR) surveillance.