What Causes Staph Infections?
Through breaks in the skin from minor cuts, burns, insect bites or lesions caused by skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, staph bacteria can proliferate and colonize the affected areas, resulting in infections. Although rare, severe or life-threatening illnesses can result if staph bacteria enter the bloodstream through breaks in the skin.
- It is also possible for staph infections to be spread from person to person, especially under conditions where people come into close contact with others. For example, someone with an existing skin infection can transmit the staph bacteria through the sharing of personal items such as clothing, pillowcases, towels, etc. Warm and humid conditions, crowded areas, as well as sweating, can also encourage staph infections to occur.
- Bacteria can spread from skin-to-skin contact. A person can infect other skin areas on their body by touching an infected area and then transmitting the infection by touching another skin area.
- Athletes engaging in contact sports can spread staph infections through skin abrasions and cuts or through the sharing of personal items, such as equipment or towels.
- Transmission can also occur by coming into contact with contaminated objects. Staph bacteria can live on the skin and survive on objects for 24 hours or more.
- Surgical or medical procedures are other common ways in which staph infections can begin or spread.
- Individuals who are carriers of S. aureus and those with established bacterial infections are considered to be primary sources of staph transmission.
- According to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (von Eiff C, et al. Nasal carriage as a source of Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia. Study Group. N Engl J Med. 2001 Jan 4;344(1):11-6), colonized patients are the chief source of S. aureus in hospitals.
- The study reports that approximately 10-40% of people tested as outpatients (patients who receive treatment at a hospital or clinic, but do not require an overnight stay) or on admission carried S. aureus in their nose.
- The researchers observed that colonizing strains can cause a wide spectrum of infections that can spread to other patients.
- This report further suggests that elimination of nasal carriage specifically reduced the incidence of S. aureus infections and that when the nostrils were treated topically for nasal carriage, staph infection elsewhere in the body usually disappeared, as did hand carriage.