An alternative to animal experiments: Development of an in vitro human skin model for evaluation of topical antimicrobial compounds

Contact: Mette Elena Skindersø

Our aim is to develop, validate and implement an in vitro skin infection model suitable for investigations of topical antimicrobials as an alternative to animal models. We will also use this in vitro model to evaluate virulence of different bacterial pathogens (mainly Staphylococcus aureus).We expect the results obtained using this model will closely resemble existing data from the murine skin infection model used at the animal facility at Statens Serum Institut (SSI)(4).Thus, this in vitro model possesses the potential to replace the use of mice for investigations of topicalantimicrobials and infectious bacteria.

Project status at January 2017

There is a great need for new antimicrobials that can be used to fight skin infection, such as that caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). A skin infection model in mice is often used in this context. This project will examine whether skin cultivated in a Petri dish can be used as an alternative/supplement to the animal model, both for testing such new substances and for examining pathogenic characteristics of different bacteria strains. The project will use data from previously performed skin infection experiments in mice as its reference. This means that the project will
not involve new animal testing. The artificial skin that is being used in the project is based on donated human skin cells, for instance from people who have had excess skin removed after obesity surgery. We have just carried out a Proof of Concept test in which we have made wounds in the artificial skin and infected them with MRSA bacteria and then examined the bacterial count in the following days. We have also treated some of the skin pieces with cream that either contains fucidin or mupirocin – both antimicrobials used for skin infection. Data from this experiment show that the bacteria are highly capable of infecting the artificial skin and that the treatment efficiently reduces the amount of bacteria in the artificial skin to a degree that corresponds well to similar testing of skin infection in mice. The experiment will now be repeated to confirm data, and other strains of Staphylococcus aureus will be tested to examine whether their infection potential corresponds to the MRSA strain already used.

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