Is It Easier to Get Staph Infection When You've Had it Before?

Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2018

Ask the experts

Once a person has had a staph infection, is it easier to get another one?

Doctor's response

Staph (the bacteria Staphylococcus) can cause a multitude of diseases directly by infection or indirectly through products they make (such as toxins responsible for food poisoning and toxic shock syndrome).

What may appear to be recurrent staph infections may in fact be due to failure to eradicate the original staph infection.

Recurrent staph infections can also be due to seeding of staph from the bloodstream, a condition known as staph sepsis or staph bacteremia.

And then there is what is called Job syndrome. It is named for Job in the Bible who suffered (among many other horrible misfortunes) from innumerable boils. The biblical book of Job records that "Satan...smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown" (Job 2:7). For this reason Dr. Starkey Davis and his coinvestigators at the University of Washington in the 1960s gave the name "Job syndrome" to a disorder affecting 2 unrelated girls both of whom had lifelong histories of indolent ('cold') staph abscesses. A defect in local resistance to staphylococcal infection was suggested.

Job syndrome is thus an inherent inability of the body to deal with staph (and often with the yeast Candida albicans, too). Curiously enough, these people tend to have fair skin with eczema (atopic dermatitis), red hair, and reddish-brown eyes.

Because Job syndrome is accompanied by high blood serum levels of what is called IgE, it has also been called the hyperimmunoglobulin E-recurrent infection syndrome, the HiE syndrome, and the hyper-IgE syndrome.

Although very interesting, Job syndrome is rare. People prone to staph infections include newborn babies; women who are breast feeding (staph is a common cause of mastitis, that is breast infection); people with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and long-term lung disease; and anyone with immunodeficiency or suppression of the immune syndrome (such as people taking cortisone-like drugs, people on cancer treatment with drugs or irradiation, people AIDS, people born with defects in the immune system, etc.).

In a word, the answer to your interesting question -- Once a person has had a staph infection is it easier to get another one? -- is "Yes". However, normal persons frequently develop a staph infection which resolves without ever have it again.