Staph Infections: Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment


Staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, which are found on the skin, in the nose and mouth, and the genital and anal area. While they are not always dangerous, staphylococcus bacteria can lead to many types of infections if they enter the body. This can range from minor skin infections like a boil to serious and antibiotic-resistant infections that can be life-threatening. This infection is  contagious. Additionally, staphylococcus bacteria can survive on cloth like pillowcases and towels for a long time until they infect another person.

Risk Factors

The severity and effects of staphylococcus infection can vary from person to person. Numerous factors can come into play to increase your risk of developing staph infections. This may include an underlying health condition such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, kidney problems, or cancer. This can also include a skin condition like eczema or respiratory illness like emphysema or cystic fibrosis. Because these conditions typically weaken the immune system, staphylococcus bacteria find it easier to enter into the body and cause health complications.

Invasive devices such as urinary catheters, dialysis tubing, feeding tubes, intravascular catheters, and breathing tubes can also increase the risk of staphylococcus infection because the bacteria can easily travel through the medical tubing to the inside of the body. Moreover, staph infections can also spread through abrasions, cuts, and skin-to-skin contact, which are seen to be common in contact sports. Sharing towels, uniforms, or sports gear can also increase the risk of staph infections.


If staphylococcus bacteria enter the bloodstream, then it can cause severe infections, such as sepsis and toxic shock syndrome. Therefore, it is recommended to contact a primary care physician to diagnose the condition as soon as the symptoms of staph infection are noticed.

The treatment of staphylococcus infections includes using antibiotics that contain certain cephalosporins, such as cefazolin, oxacillin, daptomycin, telavancin, and linezolid. If the staph infection is very serious, then the doctor may also prescribe vancomycin to treat the condition. The antibiotics may even be administered intravenously for better results.

In some cases, the staphylococcus bacteria may even become resistant to the antibiotics. This is commonly seen in cases where the infections are caused by the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains. Your doctor may prescribe IV antibiotics like daptomycin and vancomycin to treat such an infection.

If the staph infection is related to an implanted device or prosthetic, your doctor may also recommend that the device be removed to avoid a worse infection. To learn more about how to prevent staph infections, or to ask other questions you may have, contact CCCHC today.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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