Staph infections are caused by bacteria and will respond to antibiotics, unlike viral infections. Viruses cause viral infections and do not respond to antibiotic treatment. Staph infections are usually associated with medical facilities; this is especially true of MRSA. With recent changes in patient administration and identifying MRSA colonization (bacteria present, but not causing symptoms), the cases of HA (hospital acquired) have dropped. The cases of CA (community acquired) have increased.
Staphylococcus aureus is one of the types of staph infections that a person can get, but not the only type.
Types of Staph Infections
Staph infections come from Staphylococcus bacteria. Staph infections have some of the same symptoms, which can include fever, flu-like symptoms, tenderness, redness, and pus. The infection usually starts on the skin and when left untreated, it can enter the body and infect blood, joints, organs, etc. There are three types of staph infections that are common to humans. Types of Staphylococcus bacteria include the following:
- Staphylococcus epidermidis
- Staphylococcus saprophyticus
- Staphylococcus aureus
Though they may be similar, each type of infection is caused by a different bacteria species and has unique characteristics.
Staphylococcus Aureus Infections
Staphylococcus aureus is a well-known type of staph infection because it is the bacteria that are responsible for MRSA. When this type of bacteria does not respond to commonly used antibiotics, it is referred to as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria can be acquired in a medical facility or in the community. It is a highly adaptable bacterium that mutates into strains that is resistant to antibiotic treatments. It is also very tough and can live on surfaces for extended, maybe even indefinite lengths of time. The bacteria is usually found in nostrils (most common), armpits, groin, and folds of skin. Skin infections that are caused by S. aureus include the following:
The toxins that this staph bacteria produces causes toxic shock syndrome and food poisoning. There are strains that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Prosthetics and contaminated surgical instruments can introduce Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in the body. This type of staph bacteria does form biofilms, but more commonly it is Staphylococcus epidermidis that is found in biofilms.
Staphylococcus Epidermidis Infections
Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria are found on the skin and other surfaces, but rarely cause an infection. S. aureus is usually responsible for staph infections on the skin. The bacteria, S. epidermidis is commonly responsible for staph infections that develop from surgeries and medical procedures. It produces biofilms and grows on plastic devices that are in the body like the following:
- Cochlear implants
- Artificial joints
- Penile implants
The staph bacteria can grow on permanently implanted or temporarily implanted devices. Once a biofilms develops, often the implant will need to be removed and replaced. This bacterium is often responsible for reoccurring infections after a medical procedure or surgery. It is known as a known as coagulase (has the ability to clot rabbit plasma). Another type of staph bacteria, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, is coagulase-negative (does not have the ability to clot rabbit plasma).
Staphylococcus Saprophyticus Infections
Staphylococcus saprophyticus are the bacteria that are responsible for urinary track infections. The most common cause of urinary infection is escherichia coli, with S. saprophyticus being the second most common cause. Staph infections from this bacteria cause both upper and lower urinary track infections. This type of infection usually occurs in sexually active young women (Is It Safe To Have Sex With Someone With MRSA?). In addition to preventing contact with the bacteria, women can prevent an infection with good hygiene, wiping front to back, and urinating before and after intercourse.
Preventing Staph Infections
Preventing staph infections can be as easy as washing hands regularly with soap and water. To prevent a resistant strain of Staphylococcus, antibiotic use and antibacterial products should be limited. Good personal hygiene and a strong immune system will also help prevent getting an infection. When antibiotics are necessary, it is important to follow the directions and finish the medication to prevent a resistant strain of staph from developing.
Knowing the symptoms of a staph infection will help to identify one promptly so that steps can be taken to prevent the spread of the bacteria to others. Once a staph infection is identified, a medical professional can determine the Staphylococcus bacteria species and strain to choose the most effective treatment.
Staph Infection Treatment
Commonly, staph infections require antibiotic treatment. When a bacteria is resistant to treatment it is usually because it is MRSA. Antibiotics can still be used to treat this type of staph infection, but not methicillin and other related antibiotics like penicillin and amoxicillin. If the infection is caused by an implanted device or prosthetic, it may need to be removed and replaced. Some infections may require lancing and draining.
With so many different types of Staphylococcus, it is important to seek out medical care when there are symptoms of a staph infection. This is especially important if there are MRSA symptoms. A MRSA infection will rapidly get worse and become serious very fast. The infection can also be life threatening and cause death if left untreated, so prompt medical attention is important. Staph infections are diagnosed with lab tests and usually respond well to treatment when treatment begins early.