Most people have Staphylococcus bacteria on their skin, but sometimes it can cause an acute infection with life threatening symptoms.
Staphylococcus bacteria are a common bacterial strain. Even healthy people often have these bacteria living harmlessly on their skin. When Staphylococcus bacteria do cause problems, they’re often minor skin infections or temporary cases of food poisoning.
However, Staphylococcus bacteria can also cause severe and even fatal infections. Staphylococcus bacteria can invade the bloodstream or organs, resulting in serious illness. Many Staphylococcus bacterial infections can be treated and cured with traditional antibiotics. Some strains of Staphylococcus are antibiotic-resistant and need to be treated with newer antibiotics.
In this article, we’ll look at different bacterial strains, treatments of Staphylococcus, and answer your most frequently asked questions.
Staphylococcus bacteria can cause multiple types of infections. The type and severity of infection depend on where the bacteria invade and how much they’re able to grow. Staphylococcus infections can occur in the skin, gastrointestinal tract, blood, bones, brain, heart, lungs, muscles, and in implanted devices such as pacemakers.
Common types of Staphylococcus infections include:
- skin boils
- food poisoning
- septic arthritis
- toxic shock syndrome
Types of Staphylococcus bacteria
There are more than 30 types of Staphylococcus bacteria. The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus causes the most infections. There are also several strains of S. aureus.
These strains can cause different infections and need to be treated with different antibiotics. Some are resistant to traditional antibiotics and need to be treated with specially developed antibiotics. These antibiotics cause more side effects than traditional antibiotics.
In the United States, commonly found types of S. aureus include:
Staphylococcus bacteria are very common. People often carry these bacteria on their skin or in their nasal cavities without ever developing an infection. But sometimes, the bacteria you already carry can cause you to become sick when your immune system is compromised. It can also spread to other people and be transferred to objects such as cups, utensils, pillowcases, and towels.
Staphylococcus bacteria can survive outside host bodies for a long time and can withstand extreme temperatures and drying out. These factors make it very easy for Staphylococcus infections to spread, especially in households or shared living environments.
There are also several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing a Staphylococcus infection. These include:
- eating food that’s not properly prepared
- working in food preparation without taking adequate safety precautions
- playing contact sports
- having a weakened immune system for any reason
- having cancer
- being treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- being treated with dialysis for kidney failure
- living with HIV
- having insulin-dependent diabetes
- having eczema or another condition that causes recurrent skin damage
- having emphysema, cystic fibrosis, or any other chronic respiratory illness
- having received an organ transplant
- currently being hospitalized or having frequent hospital stays
- having surgical wounds
- having extensive burn scarring
- using a urinary or intravenous (IV) catheter
- having a pacemaker
The symptoms of a Staphylococcus infection depend on the type and severity of the infection. Staphylococcus can cause mild skin rashes or severe and life threatening symptoms. Examples of a few common conditions and their symptoms are listed below.
- Boils: Boils cause a pocket of pus to form over a hair follicle.
- Food poisoning: Food poisoning causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Bacteremia: Symptoms of bacteremia include a high fever and low blood pressure.
- Endocarditis: Endocarditis causes fever, sweating, a rapid heart rate, and unintentional weight loss.
- Septic arthritis: Septic arthritis causes joint swelling and severe joint pain, along with a high fever.
- Toxic shock syndrome: Toxic shock syndrome causes symptoms such as a very high fever, a rash, muscle aches, and confusion.
The exact diagnosis process for Staphylococcus can depend on the type of Staphylococcus a doctor suspects you have. In many cases, you’ll have an exam to go over your symptoms and so that a doctor or healthcare professional can examine you for any physical signs of infection.
This will be followed by a blood draw, urine sample, nasal swab test, or a combination of these methods to confirm the presence of Staphylococcus bacteria and determine the best antibiotic.
However, in some cases, more testing might be needed. For instance, if a doctor thinks the Staphylococcus infection is an infection in an organ, such as your heart or your lungs, you might also have imaging tests done to check for inflammation and damage.
Treatment for Staphylococcus infections depends on the exact infection and severity but generally includes antibiotics. Traditional antibiotic treatments for Staphylococcus infections include cefazolin, nafcillin, oxacillin, and linezolid. Additional treatments for Staphylococcus are discussed below.
- IV vancomycin or daptomycin: Antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus bacterial infections can’t be treated with traditional antibiotics. Vancomycin and daptomycin are antibiotics that are often used to help treat these infections. These medications have more side effects but can fight these antibiotic-resistant infections.
- Device removal: An infection in a catheter, pacemaker, or another artificial device generally means that the device needs to be removed.
- Wound drainage: Sometimes skin infections need to have fluid drained from them so they can be cleaned and start to heal.
- Pain medication: A doctor might recommend or prescribe medication to help you manage pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also help bring down your fever.
Most Staphylococcus infections are mild and easily treated with antibiotics. Even severe and antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus infections can often be cured with treatment. However, if left untreated, Staphylococcus can be fatal.
Still have questions? You’re not alone. You can learn more about Staphylococcus by reading the answers to some commonly asked questions below.
Is a Staphylococcus infection a sexually transmitted disease?
No, Staphylococcus infections aren’t sexually transmitted.
What disinfectant kills Staphylococcus bacteria?
Staphylococcus bacteria can be killed with many antibacterial products. Common antibacterial products include bleach, Lysol, hydrogen peroxide, and some soaps. These products will state somewhere on the label that they kill bacteria and list the bacteria that they’re known to be able to kill.
Can Staphylococcus be cured?
Nearly all Staphylococcus infections can be cured with antibiotics. Some strains of Staphylococcus have developed antibiotic resistance, but newer treatments, such as vancomycin and daptomycin, can treat and cure these infections.
Why do I keep getting Staphylococcus infections?
Recurrent Staphylococcus infections can be caused by lingering Staphylococcus bacteria in the body. You might need a longer course of antibiotics.
Your living environment can also play a role. For instance, in the case of skin infections, your laundry detergent might not be removing all the bacteria from your towels, sheets, and clothes. Additionally, if you live with multiple people, you could be passing an infection back and forth in a cycle that can be difficult to break.
If you’re getting repeated Staphylococcus infections, it’s a good idea to let a doctor know. It’s also smart to disinfect the surfaces of your home and to thoroughly wash your sheets, blankets, towels, and anything else that could be carrying staphylococcus.
What’s the main source of Staphylococcusbacteria?
Staphylococcus is often spread through contact with other people. Touching infected blood or bodily fluids is the main source of Staphylococcus bacteria. This can be easy to do without even realizing it. Sharing personal items, not taking care of handwashing, or simply living with other people can spread Staphylococcus.
Is a Staphylococcus infection dangerous?
Many Staphylococcus infections are mild. However, a Staphylococcus infection can be very dangerous. Some Staphylococcus infections can be fatal if they’re left untreated.
It’s important to see a healthcare professional if you think you have a Staphylococcus infection and to follow any instructions they give you.
Staphylococcus bacteria cause a range of infections. Some infections are mild and cause symptoms such as skin rashes. Others are very serious and can affect your blood and organs.
Most Staphylococcus infections can be successfully treated with traditional antibiotics; however, some are antibiotic-resistant and require newer treatments. Some Staphylococcus infections can be fatal without treatment, so it’s important to make a medical appointment if you have the symptoms of any Staphylococcus infection.