Hopkins ABX Guide

Staphylococcus Aureus Bacterium

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium of the Staphylococcaceae family and one of the most common causes of bacterial infections in humans. Discovered by the Scottish surgeon Sir Alexander Ogston (1844-1929) in 1880, the bacterium isn’t always pathogenic. What is more, many people carry it on their skin and in their nose, and never develop an infection. And if they do, they usually develop relatively harmless skin condition. Sometimes, however, the bacterium can cause serious complications and be even fatal.

Who is at Risk of Staphylococcus Aureus Infection?

Also known as Staph, Staphylococcus aureus infection can be developed by anyone including perfectly healthy individuals. However, both the infection and complications are more likely to be developed by people with some underlying medical conditions, in the first place conditions that affect the immune system such as HIV/AIDS, cystic fibrosis, cancer, etc. At increased risk of Staphylococcus aureus infection are also people who suffer from diabetes, and hospitalised or recently hospitalised individuals with surgical wounds, burns or/and prosthetic material - urinary catheter, breathing tube and intravenous catheters.

People who are at increased risk of Staph are also at increased risk of MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The latter is resistant to many antibiotics and is very difficult to treat.

Symptoms of Staphylococcus Aureus Infection

Symptoms of Staphylococcus aureus infection are ranging from minor skin infections to life-threatening complications. Depending on the severity and location of the infection, symptoms of staph may include boils, cellulitis, impetigo, high fever, blood poisoning (bacteremia), diarrhoea and/or nausea with or without vomiting (food poisoning), join pain and swelling (septic arthritis), and life-threatening complications including meningitis, sepsis, endocarditis and toxic shock syndrome.

Symptoms of MRSA infection are similar to those caused by “ordinary” Staphylococcus aureus. It too manifests itself as skin infection, most often in the form of red, swollen, painful and pus-filled boil. But the bacteria can also spread inside the body and cause a very dangerous lung, urinary tract, joint, bone or blood infection.

Treatment of Staphylococcus Aureus Infection

Most Staphylococcus aureus infections respond well to antibiotic treatment. This, however, may not be the case if the infection is caused by MRSA. It still responds to some antibiotics but it can be very difficult to clear up. In some cases, however, it can successfully be managed without antibiotics.