Staphylococcus and Streptococcus share many similarities. Because these pathogens are so similar to one another, they are often confused for the each other when diagnosed. The causes of confusion stem from the following:
- Both are sphere shaped and are anaerobic gram-positive bacteria
- Both are resistant to several forms of antibiotics
- Both are members of human microbiota
- Some species of these can be pathogenic and can cause serious infections and have caused deaths either indirect or direct, through toxins, which are virulence factors
Both Staphylococcus and Streptococcus are cocci in shape and are Gram positive organisms. These pathogens are non-sporing, motile and are facultative anaerobes. These bacterial infections can be life threatening and deadly if they cause blood poisoning, sepsis, pneumonia or toxic shock syndrome. While these bacteria can usually live harmlessly on your skin, if they get inside your body’s bloodstream they will release toxins that are poisonous. These toxins cause damage to organs, skin and tissue and can inhibit critical organ functions.
Causes of Staph infections
Below are some of the common reasons you may become infected with Staph:
- Diabetics who use insulin
- Kidney failure requiring dialysis
- Weakened immune systems — either from a disease or medications that suppress the immune system
- Skin damage from conditions like eczema, insect bites or minor open wounds
- Respiratory illness, specifically, cystic fibrosis or emphysema
Other symptoms of a staph infection are caused by side effects from the current sickness you might be dealing with. If your sickness requires treatment with medical equipment that is made of metal, the bacteria can live on it and enter your body when it is inserted. Some of these pieces of equipment are:
- Tubing used for dialysis
- Urinary catheters
- Tubes used for feeding
- Tubes used for breathing
- Catheters that enter your intravascular system
Symptoms of Staph infections
There are a variety of symptoms associated with a staph infection. Let’s start with the infections staph bacteria can cause to your epidermis:
- Boils – This staph infection is the one that occurs most frequently. Pocket or pockets of pus develop in a glad or hair follicle. The skin covering the area infected will become either red or swollen. Should the boil break open, pus will likely drain out. The boils are typically found underneath your arms, or near your groin and butt regions.
- Cellulitis – When your skin’s deep layers become infected, cellulitis occurs. This causes your skin to turn red and swell on the outside. Also, ulcers (sores) or a discharge with oozing pus could happen as well.
- Impetigo – This is a kind of rash that is contagious and unfortunately, painful. Presentation of this rash is evidenced by honey-colored crust on your skin and oozing fluid from large blisters.
- Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome – When the staph infection produces toxins, these can toxins cause staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. Mostly found in infants and children, this ailment causes fever, rashes and on occasion blisters. Should these blisters break open, the skin’s top layer peels away to reveal a red layer of skin underneath that resembles a burn.
Staph bacteria commonly cause food poisoning. The symptoms onset quickly, usually a few hours after eating food that was contaminated by staph bacteria. Symptoms usually go away fast as well, often lasting only a day at the most.
Staph infections typically do not cause you to have a fever. The signs/symptoms you should expect to present themselves are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low blood pressure
Septicemia, which is also referred to as blood poisoning, happens when staph bacteria enter into your bloodstream. Signs of septicemia include low blood pressure coupled with a fever. The bacteria are able to travel to deep locations in your body, to cause infections that affect:
- Internal organs, like your brain, heart and lungs
- Bones and your muscles
- Surgically implanted devices, such as artificial joints or cardiac pacemakers
Septic arthritis can happen as well and occurs as a result of an infection from staph bacteria. The bacteria often target the knees, shoulders, hips, fingers or toes. The usual signs and symptoms typically include:
- Joint swelling
- Severe pain in the affected joint
When it’s time to call a doctor about your symptoms
Visit the doctor immediately if you or your child experience any of the following symptoms:
- Pus-filled blisters
- Irritated, red or painful skin
- Skin infections passed from family member to family member
- Multiple members of your family have skin infections in the same timeline
Symptoms of Strep infections
This bacterial infection generates inflammation and pain in your throat. Caused by group A streptococcus bacteria, this common affliction affects children and adults, regardless of age. This sickness is spread by sneezing or coughing.
Other common symptoms are:
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty swallowing
- Experiencing chills
- Red, sore throat with white spots
- Quick onset of fever, typically higher than 101 degrees or higher
Strep throat is usually treated by prescription antibiotics or at-home care. Penicillin or amoxicillin are the most commonly prescribed medications for this bacteria. The at-home methods of treatment include:
- Drinking warm lemon water or tea
- Using a cool-mist humidifier
- Throat lozenges
- Gargling with salt water
- Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen
If strep throat is not treated quickly, it can evolve into other, more serious issues like:
- Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis – This inflammatory disease damages the kidneys
- Scarlet fever – Causes a scarlet-colored rash to show on different parts of your body
- Ear infection
- Guttate psoriasis – This causes teardrop shaped spots to appear on various spots on your body that are small and red
- Peritonsillar abscess
- Rheumatic fever – This inflammatory disease damages the heart, the joints and the skin
Prevention of Staph infections
There are multiple ways to lower your risk of a staph infection. They are:
- Washing your hands
- Covering open wounds
- Limit tampon risks
- Wash your clothes and bedding items in hot water
- Do not share personal items
- Take precautions with the food you eat – Make sure the food has a temperature greater than 140 F. Conversely, cold food’s temperature should be 40 F.
- Avoid skin to skin contact with anyone you believe might have this infection
If possible, avoid hospitals. They are a breeding ground for staph bacteria and the people commonly affected by it have wounds from surgery, burns and immune systems weakened by sickness.
Prevention of Strep infection
The best way to avoid strep throat is to do the following:
- Avoid people who have a sore throat
- Avoid people who have a fever
- Avoid people who are experiencing nausea and vomiting
- Avoid people who are experiencing a rash
- Do not share cups or plates with anyone
- Do not share knives, forks, or spoons with anyone
- Do not share toothbrushes
- Do not share food or drinks
Treatment of Staph infections
First, you will have to get a diagnosis from your doctor of having a staph infection. This is done by your doctor performing a physical examination and determining if the lesions on your body are caused by staph bacteria. The next step is for your doctor to obtain a sample to send out for testing to confirm the bacteria is present. They collect a sample of tissue or a sample from your nasal passage that might test positive for staph bacteria.
There are many treatments for staph infections which include:
- Draining wounds
- Removing prosthetic devices that may be causing the infection
As more is learned about these infections, the more important it becomes to get treatment for them right away should you become infected. They become more and more resistant to antibiotics and additional remedies are being worked on to hopefully eliminate these potentially deadly bacteria.