Nasal microbiota evolution within the congregate setting imposed by military training

Faith C. Blum, Jeannette M. Whitmire, Jason W. Bennett, Patrick M. Carey, Michael W. Ellis, Caroline E. English, Natasha N. Law, David R. Tribble, Eugene V. Millar, D. Scott Merrell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The human microbiome is comprised of a complex and diverse community of organisms that is subject to dynamic changes over time. As such, cross-sectional studies of the microbiome provide a multitude of information for a specific body site at a particular time, but they fail to account for temporal changes in microbial constituents resulting from various factors. To address this shortcoming, longitudinal research studies of the human microbiome investigate the influence of various factors on the microbiome of individuals within a group or community setting. These studies are vital to address the effects of host and/or environmental factors on microbiome composition as well as the potential contribution of microbiome members during the course of an infection. The relationship between microbial constituents and disease development has been previously explored for skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) within congregate military trainees. Accordingly, approximately 25% of the population carries Staphylococcus aureus within their nasal cavity, and these colonized individuals are known to be at increased risk for SSTIs. To examine the evolution of the nasal microbiota of U.S. Army Infantry trainees, individuals were sampled longitudinally from their arrival at Fort Benning, Georgia, until completion of their training 90 days later. These samples were then processed to determine S. aureus colonization status and to profile the nasal microbiota using 16S rRNA gene-based methods. Microbiota stability differed dramatically among the individual trainees; some subjects exhibited great stability, some subjects showed gradual temporal changes and some subjects displayed a dramatic shift in nasal microbiota composition. Further analysis utilizing the available trainee metadata suggests that the major drivers of nasal microbiota stability may be S. aureus colonization status and geographic origin of the trainees. Nasal microbiota evolution within the congregate setting imposed by military training is a complex process that appears to be affected by numerous factors. This finding may indicate that future campaigns to prevent S. aureus colonization and future SSTIs among high-risk military trainees may require a ‘personalized’ approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11492
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


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