Every year BioMed Central recognizes the best scientific research published in its Open Access journals through the BioMed Central Research Awards, which cover ten different categories. Julia Oh and Julia Segre from the National Human Genome Research Institute, Maryland and Heidi Kong from the National Cancer Institute, Maryland won in the category of Microbiology, Immunology, Infection and Inflammation for their article ‘Shifts in human skin and nares microbiota of healthy children and adults‘, published in Genome Medicine.

“It is an honor to have been selected as the winner of the Microbiology, Immunology, Infection and Inflammation category Research Award”, said Oh, lead author of the study and postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Julia Segre. The award was presented in May 2013 at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Colorado and judged by a panel of eminent scientists and clinicians including Frank Cox, Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“The quality of research within the microbiology category was outstanding. All the papers I read were clear, well written and made important advances to particular fields and the biomedical sciences in general”, said Cox.

Findings from the winning article mark a significant contribution to the field of microbiology, revealing how an area previously unassociated with major age-related physiological changes – the inner nostril – shows distinct differences in microbial communities depending on pubertal age.


“Studying the diverse communities of microbes in and on our bodies has the potential to help us better understand human health and disease”
Julia Oh, National Human Genome Research Institute


Oh and colleagues examined the bacterial communities inhabiting the skin of healthy children and adults using 16S-rRNA gene sequencing technology. Their results and continued research may help explain why certain conditions, such as pediatric atopic dermatitis, spontaneously resolve with age and how treatments in children for disorders influenced by microbial imbalances could be improved through a better understanding of the microbiome-related differences that arise during maturity.

Oh expressed hopes that receiving the award will “publicize the concept that not only one’s body, physiology, and health develop and evolve over our lives as we age, but there is a corresponding developmental trajectory to our microbial communities that likely has a very direct impact on our health”. Future work in the labs of Segre and Kong will continue to explore this ‘developmental trajectory’, going beyond bacteria and looking at fungal and viral communities innate to the human body.

Read more from Oh about the Award-winning research article in Biome’s Author Q&A here.


More about the researcher(s)

  • Heidi Kong

    Heidi Kong

    Heidi Kong is a tenure-track clinical investigator in the Dermatology Branch of the NIH Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute, Maryland. Her research focuses on the skin microbiome in healthy individuals and patients with atopic dermatitis and primary immunodeficiency disorders with eczematous skin conditions. She received her undergraduate degree in biological sciences… Read more »

  • Julia Segre, Senior Investigator, National Human Genome Research Institute, USA.

    Julia Segre

    Julia Segre utilizes high throughput sequencing and develops algorithms to study the microbial diversity of human skin in both health and disease states, with a focus on eczema and primary immune deficiencies. Segre and colleague Heidi Kong published the first topographical map of human skin bacterial diversity, and are currently exploring fungal diversity. Segre’s research… Read more »

  • Julia Oh, postdoctoral fellow, National Human Genome Research Institute, USA.

    Julia Oh

    Julia Oh is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Julia Segre at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Her research efforts probe the dynamics of the human skin microbiome, immunity, and disease, using novel technologies to explore the communities of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that inhabit all areas of the human body and play… Read more »


Highly AccessedOpen Access

Shifts in human skin and nares microbiota of healthy children and adults

Oh J, Conlan S, Polley EC, Segre JA and Kong HH

Genome Medicine 2012, 4:77

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