Staph Infection
(Staphylococcus aureus)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What is Staphylococcus?

Staphylococcus is a group of bacteria that can cause a number of diseases as a result of infection of various tissues of the body. Staphylococcus is more familiarly known as Staph (pronounced "staff"). Staph-related illness can range from mild and requiring no treatment to severe and potentially fatal.

The name Staphylococcus comes from the Greek staphyle, meaning a bunch of grapes, and kokkos, meaning berry, and that is what Staph bacteria look like under the microscope, like a bunch of grapes or little round berries. (In technical terms, these are gram-positive, facultative anaerobic, usually unencapsulated cocci.)

Over 30 different types of Staphylococci can infect humans, but most infections are caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococci can be found normally in the nose and on the skin (and less commonly in other locations) of around 25%-30% of healthy adults and in 25% of hospital workers. In the majority of cases, the bacteria do not cause disease. However, damage to the skin or other injury may allow the bacteria to overcome the natural protective mechanisms of the body, leading to infection.

Who is at risk for Staph infections?

Anyone can develop a Staph infection, although certain groups of people are at greater risk, including newborn infants, breastfeeding women, and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, vascular disease, and lung disease. Injecting drug users, those with skin injuries or disorders, intravenous catheters, surgical incisions, and those with a weakened immune system due either to disease or a result of immune suppressing medications all have an increased risk of developing Staph infections.

Staph infections are contagious until the infection has resolved. Direct contact with an infected sore or wound, or with personal-care items such as razors, bandages, etc., are common routes of transmission. Casual contact such as kissing or hugging does not pose a great risk for transmission if there is no direct contact with the infected area.

Picture of a Staph infection
What does a Staph infection look like?
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/20/2012

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Staph Infection - Length Symptoms Lasted Question: How long did the symptoms of your staph infection (staphylococcus aureus) last?
Staph Infection - Experience Question: What did your staph infection look like?
Staph Infection - Antibiotic Resistant Question: Were you, a friend, or relative diagnosed with MRSA? Please describe your experience with antibiotic resistant Staph aureus.
Read about causes, symptoms, and treatment of MRSA infections.

Superbug Staph Spread in Community

Infections with MRSA are most common in hospitals and other institutional health-care settings, such as nursing homes, where they tend to strike older people, those who are very ill, and people with a weakened immune system. In health-care settings, MRSA is a frequent cause of surgical wound infections, urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections (sepsis), and pneumonia.


STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!