Recent studies have suggested that the topical application of probiotic bacteria can improve skin health or combat disease. We have utilized a primary human keratinocyte culture model to investigate whether probiotic bacteria can inhibit Staphylococcus aureus infection. Evaluation of the candidate probiotics Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC 55730, Lactobacillus rhamnosus AC413, and Lactobacillus salivarius UCC118 demonstrated that both L. reuteri and L. rhamnosus, but not L. salivarius, reduced S. aureusinduced keratinocyte cell death in both undifferentiated and differentiated keratinocytes. Keratinocyte survival was significantly higher if the probiotic was applied prior to (P0.05). The protective effect of L. reuteri was not dependent on the elaboration of inhibitory substances such as lactic acid. L. reuteri inhibited adherence of S. aureus to keratinocytes by competitive exclusion (P = 0.026). L. salivarius UCC118, however, did not inhibit S. aureus from adhering to keratinocytes (P > 0.05) and did not protect keratinocyte viability. S. aureus utilizes the α5β1 integrin to adhere to keratinocytes, and blocking of this integrin resulted in a protective effect similar to that observed with probiotics (P=0.03). This suggests that the protective mechanism for L. reuterimediated protection of keratinocytes was by competitive exclusion of the pathogen from its binding sites on the cells. Our results suggest that use of a topical probiotic prophylactically could inhibit the colonization of skin by S. aureus and thus aid in the prevention of infection. © 2012, American Society for Microbiology.