Hopkins ABX Guide

Staphylococcus Epidermidis Bacteria

What is Staphylococcus Epidermidis?

Staphylococcus epidermidis, also referred to as Staph epidermidis is a species from the genus of Staphylococcus which consists of some 40 Gram-positive bacteria. Though it isn’t as common cause of infection as its “relative” Staphylococcus aureus, the incidence of Staphylococcus epidermidis infections is rising.

The bacterium can cause serious complications and even death but it normally doesn’t cause any major health problems. It is one of the many microorganisms that live on the human skin and are either harmless or beneficial - under condition that they are in balance with other microorganisms. When the balance between the microorganisms is disrupted, they can cause various skin diseases but they can also enter the bloodstream and cause potentially fatal complications. And Staphylococcus epidermidis is one of those microorganisms of the skin flora that can be very dangerous.

Why Staphylococcus Epidermidis is Dangerous and Who is at Risk of Infection?

Staphylococcus epidermidis is dangerous because it doesn’t respond well to antibiotics. At least to the majority of the most commonly used ones, including penicillin, methicillin and amoxicillin.

As mentioned earlier, this bacterium species normally isn’t harmful but just like other non-pathogenic microorganisms, it too can become pathogenic. At greatest risk of Staphylococcus epidermidis infection are individuals with a weakened or compromised immune system. The vast majority of cases are observed in people with catheters and other prosthetic devices including artificial heart valves. They usually contract the infection in a hospital setting.

Symptoms and Complications of Staphylococcus Epidermidis Infection

Staphylococcus epidermidis infection can occur in many different parts of the body and therefore, symptoms depend greatly on the location of the infection. For example, a patient with skin infection will experience very different symptoms than a person with urinary tract infection although both might develop fever and fatigue. The same counts for patients with prosthetic valve endocarditis or infection of the endocardium (medical expression for heart’s inner lining). This infection is usually developed during the surgery but the patient may not experience any symptoms up to one year. Besides fever and fatigue, symptoms of endocarditis may also include night sweats, unintended weight loss, chronic cough, shortness of breath, pale skin, blood in urine and red spots on the skin.

Treatment of Staphylococcus Epidermidis Infection

Staphylococcus epidermidis infection is difficult to treat because the bacterium has developed resistance to multiple antibiotics. Most infections are treated with vancomycin from the glycopeptide class of antibiotics, while indwelling prosthetic devices are removed because the bacterium is known to thrive on these devices.