What is a staph infection?

What is a Staph Infection?

Background

Commensal bacteria, such as the staphylococcal variety, are normal residents on the skin of humans and animals. Microorganisms exist on virtually all body surfaces (such as the skin and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts) that are covered by epithelial cells – these cells form tissue that lines both the internal and external surfaces of the body.

What is a Staphylococcal Infection?

Staphylococcal (commonly shortened to staph) infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria. There are over 30 species of staphylococcal bacteria and each causes different types of infections. On healthy, intact skin, these germs live harmlessly on the surface.

Common skin areas where staph bacteria can be found include the mouth, nose, genitals and anus. Other parts of the body that can harbor the bacteria include the throat, urinary tract and upper respiratory tract.

Front-line Protection by Your Skin

One of the body’s natural defenses against microorganisms is sebum (an oily secretion). Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands to coat the skin and hair follicles. Through the pores of hair follicles, sebum rises to the surface, where it combines with other lipids and sweat to form a coating on the skin. This coating protects against bacteria and helps maintain moisture and reduces natural water loss through the skin.