The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium is the leading cause of all Staph infections in humans, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although these bacteria are usually harmless and are commonly found on the surface of the skin, the Mayo Clinic reports they can prevail over the body’s natural protection once the skin is damaged or injured, producing an infection. The infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus range from superficial skin infections to life-threatening ones.
Skin infections are the most common effects of staphylococcus aureus, according to MedlinePlus. These infections can start as a simple crusting of the skin, known as impetigo. MedlinePlus states that impetigo starts with redness of the skin, then progresses into bullae, which is an elevation of the skin filled with fluid. Once a bulla ruptures, crusting ensues. Crusting is the main feature of impetigo.
Other skin infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus are folliculitis, an inflammation of a hair follicle; furuncle, a small abscess affecting the skin and subcutaneous tissues; and carbuncle, a collection of furuncles. While these skin infections usually go away without treatment, they can develop into septicemia, which is a life-threatening systemic condition.
Staphylococcus aureus can also cause food poisoning, which can bring symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and dehydration, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who eat contaminated food can develop symptoms within one to six hours. The prognosis for these cases of food poisoning is usually good; the Centers for Disease Control reports the illness can resolve on its own, usually within one to three days.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome caused by Staphylococcus aureus is life-threatening, particularly because it is a systemic bacterial infection. Symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include redness on the skin, fever and low blood pressure. It usually involves organ systems, such as the gastrointestinal, muscular, renal, hematologic and nervous systems. Laboratory tests can point out the involvement of any of these systems, according to the Mayo Clinic. Onset of toxic shock syndrome is rather sudden, especially when it occurs in patients who were previously healthy. People who underwent nasal surgery are most susceptible to this disease, since the nose is commonly colonized by Staphylococcus aureus. Women who commonly wear tampons also are at risk for developing toxic shock syndrome through Staphylococcus aureus, according to the Mayo Clinic.