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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.

Picture of a Staph infection
What does a Staph infection look like?
Return to Staph Infection (Staphylococcus Aureus)

See what others are saying

Comment from: some1, 19-24 Male (Patient) Published: November 01

I have contracted staph infection about a month ago. I didn't really know what it was until my whole face was full of boils oozing pus. It was horrible and painful, plus it was all under my beard so it was hard applying anything to it. Anyway, I went straight to emergency when it started to really burn my skin. The doctor injected an antibiotic and prescribed antibiotics which I used for about a week. After that, everything went back to normal, no scratches on the skin, nothing. But, I had one scar which I couldn't help but scratch, it seemed like it was still infected. One day I had had enough with the itchiness and ripped it open (by accident). Unluckily, the infection came back to me and the same thing is happening all over again. I am currently under antibiotics and applying cream on the wounds. Moral: do not scratch the scars!

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Comment from: carol d., 19-24 Male (Patient) Published: September 22

I had vertigo about 7 years ago and had headache. I woke up yesterday morning spinning and got sick to my tummy. Today I feel spaced out.

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Comment from: Papa Greg, 0-2 Female (Caregiver) Published: August 12

I was born in 1947. My late mother, a retired nurse, over the years had reminded me that I had rheumatic fever (RF) and was in bed for six months. I do not remember that. But, I could not play high school sports. Later, I was drafted and though I told doctors about the RF, I passed my physical. I served my active duty in Europe and then retired out of the Army Reserve. In all the physicals I received over those twenty years, nothing related to RF showed up. However, not long after, I started having occasional palpitations. My internist diagnosed supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). He has treated me with medication since and I rarely have any symptoms. However, my life style has been rather sedate. I have had some arthritis over that last twenty years or so, but probably not related to RF but being older.

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