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Staphylococci Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Staphylococci are Gram-positive cocci bacteria, which are common in healthy people, usually in the lining of the nose. The bacteria can then colonize other regions, via the hands, and especially the wet parts of the body such as the armpits or the genital area.

Of the forty or so types of existing staphylococci, Staphylococcus aureus ( Staphylococcus aureus ) is most commonly found in infectious diseases. This staph can cause serious infections.
In addition, he is one of the main contributors to nosocomial infections, that is to say contracted in hospital, as well as food poisoning.

Staphylococci are the cause of skin disorders, most often benign as impetigo.
But Staphylococcus aureus can lead to more serious infections such as some forms of pneumonia and bacterial meningitis. This type of bacteria is also a leading cause of food poisoning associated with cases of gastroenteritis.

When golden staphylococci develop in the bloodstream, they can attach to the joints, bones, lungs or heart. The infection can be very serious and sometimes even deadly.


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About 30% of healthy people permanently harbor golden staphylococci in their body, 50% intermittently and 20% never carry these bacteria. Staphylococci are also found in animals, soil, air, food or everyday objects.


Staphylococcal bacteria are transmitted in several ways:

  • From one individual to another. Skin infections are contagious if the lesion of the skin is purulent (presence of pus).
  • From contaminated objects. Some items may carry the bacteria such as pillowcases, towels, etc. Because staphylococci are relatively resistant, they can survive for several days outside the body, even in very dry places and at high temperatures.
  • When ingesting toxins. Food poisoning contracts when food is swallowed, staphylococci have multiplied and toxins have been released. It is the ingestion of the toxin that causes the development of the disease.


Sepsis. When bacteria multiply in a specific area of the body, in the skin or mucosa, they can enter the bloodstream and multiply, leading to a generalized infection: sepsis. This infection can lead to a serious shock called septic shock, potentially fatal.

• Secondary streptococcal foci. Sepsis can cause the bacteria to migrate to many parts of the body and cause infectious foci in the bones, joints, kidneys, brain, or heart valves.

• The toxic shock. The multiplication of staphylococcal leads to the production of staphylococcal toxins. These toxins, when they pass into the blood in large quantities, can cause a toxic shock, sometimes fatal. It is this shock (toxic shock syndrome or TSS) that is mentioned in the instructions for tampon users during menstruation.

The symptoms of staphylococci

Skin infections

  • Boils or folliculitis . An infection of the root of the hair, the hair follicles.
    • Pimples containing pus, most commonly under the arms, at the level of the groin or buttocks.
    • The skin becomes red, swollen and painful.
  • Impetigo. A highly contagious skin infection most commonly occurring in children. The perimeter of the mouth or nose is frequent locations.
    • The rapid appearance of vesicles (small blisters filled with transparent liquid or pus).
    • Then, the appearance of yellowish crusts.
  • Infectious cellulites . A severe infection caused by the penetration of bacteria under the skin, most often from an injury. The arms and legs are frequent locations.
    • Redness on the skin.
    • Swelling
    • Pains.
    • A feeling of warmth
    • If the infection spreads, fever.
  • Pantries . An infection is most often on the periphery or on the underside of the finger nail. Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for 60% of the paronychia.
  •  Food poisoning

Ingestion of food where staphylococci have multiplied, resulting in the presence of a large quantity of staphylococcal toxin:

  • a sudden onset of nausea or vomiting.
  • abdominal pain.
  • cramps and diarrhea.

Symptoms usually disappear after 24 to 48 hours.

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Septicemia and toxic shock

Sepsis. Also known as blood infection, sepsis occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply. Infectious foci may appear at a distance from the starting infection, when bacteria develop in other organs such as the heart or lungs, muscles and bones, or even in surgically implanted devices such as a pacemaker or prosthesis.
Fever and chills are the first signs of sepsis.

The toxic shock. This occurs when the toxins produced by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureusenter the bloodstream in large quantities. This shock can occur as a result of the multiplication of bacteria in the vagina during menstruation, as a result of surgical complications or complications of staph infection anywhere in the body.

The mortality related to the toxic shock is very high and the death can occur very quickly, sometimes in the space of a few hours.

  • High fever (39 ° C to 40.5 ° C).
  • Headaches.
  • Confusion
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness.
  • Vomitings.
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscular pain.
  • Sore throat
  • Rash with redness

Infectious arthritis

Staphylococcal infectious arthritis can occur when an infection with staph bacteria reaches a joint and multiplies. The infection can reach a joint via the bloodstream, a nearby injury or following surgery or injection. Infectious arthritis can affect the knees, or affect other joints such as ankles, hips, wrists or elbows.

  • Swollen joints.
  • Acute pain in the joints.
  • Fever.
  • Shivers or tremors.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Some strains of Staphylococcus aureus have developed resistance to several antibiotics, including methicillin. The Staphylococcus aureus resistant to methicillin (or MRSA) does not cause more infections than other types of staff, but the treatment is more difficult because the bacterium is resistant to many antibiotics. A poorly treated MRSA infection can lead to serious complications, as can infections to other types of staphylococci.

Most commonly, MRSA infections occur in hospitals and other types of health care facilities (nosocomial infections), particularly in people with chronic conditions or whose immune systems are weakened. Bacteria are transmitted from one patient to another through the hands of caregivers or visitors, contaminated work surfaces or devices. MRSA is constantly increasing in hospitals around the world, including Canada.

More recently, many cases of MRSA have been diagnosed among non-hospitalized populations, such as athletes, inmates, drug addicts or children attending day care centers. The CA-MRSA is usually due to poor hygienic practices in crowded places or sharing contaminated equipment.

The problem of antibiotic resistance is a global concern. Misuse of antibiotics makes infections more virulent and their spread more difficult to contain. Today, more efficient and faster screening techniques increase the number of detected cases.

People at risk for Staphylococci

• People whose immune system is weakened.

• People with chronic diseases.

Risk factors

• Have a cut or scratch and be in contact with a person who is infected with a staph.

• Be hospitalized or have a hospital stay. Despite efforts to eradicate staphylococcal bacteria, these remain in hospitals and are likely to reach the most vulnerable people, for example those treated for:


• Surgical wounds.

• Health problems such as diabetes.

• Have intubation treatments, have catheters, be on dialysis, or use mechanical ventilation devices, for example to treat chronic respiratory failure.

• Practice contact sports or share sports equipment. Athletes who exchange razors, towels, uniforms or sports equipment may transmit the infection following direct skin contact.

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The use of tampons and toxic shock

In the early 1980s, more than 700 women in North America suffered from toxic shock syndrome (TSS). This outbreak has been associated with the toxins of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, when using buffers with very high absorbency. The researchers could not determine a definite link between the use of tampons and toxic shock syndrome. The researchers had hypothesized that the vaginal lining of women who kept the tampons long was becoming drier and therefore more fragile. Golden staphylococci had more time to multiply and produce enough toxins to cause toxic shock.

They concluded that several factors may be involved and some precautions should be observed by buffer users:

• Use buffers with low absorbency. Absorbent pads have been banned everywhere. A woman should not use a tampon with an absorbency higher than that which meets her needs. Otherwise, the tampon can dry the vaginal mucosa, irritate it, and cause small lesions that facilitate the passage of staphylococci or their toxins in the body.

• Replace the buffers every 4 to 8 hours.

• Avoid wearing tampons during the night.

• Never use tampons before the onset of menstruation, prefer the sanitary napkin.

• Wash hands before handling a tampon.

• Use sanitary napkins alternately with the tampon.

The material currently used for the manufacture of tampons (cotton or rayon) would not be related to bacterial infections.

The use of barrier methods of contraception, such as sponges, cervical caps or diaphragms, may also be risk factors for the onset of toxic shock because they may irritate the vaginal mucosa.

Prevention of staphylococci

Why prevent?
Most staphylococcal infections are mild and treat well with antibiotics. However, in some cases, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream, develop and sometimes even multiply in the joints, lungs or heart and cause serious infections that can be life threatening.


Basic preventive measures
  • Wash your hands regularly. Proper hand washing is the best defense against bacteria. Wash hands thoroughly with soap for at least 15 to 30 seconds and dry with a dryer or clean paper.
  • Keep your wounds covered. The cuts and scrapes should be kept clean and covered with sterile, dry bandages until they are cured. Pus from wounds often contains staphylococcal bacteria, so keeping them covered reduces their spread.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, sheets, razors, sportswear, or athletic equipment. Staphylococcal bacteria can be transmitted by objects as much as person to person.


Measures to prevent complications
In order to reduce the risk of toxic shock, women should adopt adequate hygiene measures when using tampons:

  • Wash your hands before each manipulation of a tampon.
  • Replace the buffers every 4 to 8 hours.
  • Use buffers with minimal absorption power for your needs.
  • Avoid wearing tampons during the night.
  • Avoid using tampons before the onset of menstruation, prefer the sanitary napkin.

Use the sanitary napkins alternately with the tampon.

Medical treatment of staphylococci

Local treatment. Some skin infections caused by staphylococci are treated with good local hygiene, antiseptics or local antibiotics.

Drainage . Some skin infections sometimes require drainage. A doctor inserts a needle or makes an incision in the wound to remove the pus that has accumulated. This reduces the amount of bacteria and toxins present, which speeds healing.

Antibiotics . A doctor can first take samples to perform an antibiogram, an examination to identify the type of staph bacteria that caused the infection and thus choose the best antibiotic to treat the infection. The most frequently encountered golden staphylococci are, in general, susceptible to penicillin M (methicillin, oxacillin) the antibiotic of choice in first intention. They are also most often sensitive to macro ides, aminoglycosides, fluoroquinolones and synergistines.

Antibiotic treatment is taken orally for 7 to 10 days. It is very important to follow the instructions when taking antibiotics, which means taking them at the same times each day and finishing the treatment, even if you feel good after a few days. If the treatment is not effective or causes discomfort, promptly contact your doctor.

In case of infection with methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) , antibiotics of the penicillin family are not effective. An antibiogram (test of different kinds of antibiotics on a culture of bacteria) is used to find the antibiotic to which the bacteria will not resist. An antibiotic, vancomycin, given intravenously is often effective. Linezolid, daptomycin, rifampycin, doxycycline, telavancin or ceftaroline are also used.

In patients with MRSA infection are usually treated with an intravenous antibiotic.

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