Staph infection

Synonyms: Staphylococcus aureus infection, Staph skin infection

Medical Specialties: Dermatology, Family practice, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Staph infection is caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium.  Staph, as it's often called, is prevalent and frequently found on the skin or in the nose of people who are healthy. Infections can range from minor to more serious ones that can affect wounds, the bloodstream or the lungs. Some staph bacteria, called MRSA for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, are resistant to antibiotics and potentially life threatening.

In Our Own Words

Staph infections, caused by the common bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, can range from mild to life-threatening. MRSA refers to a potentially dangerous type of staph bacteria that resists antibiotic treatment and can cause skin, bloodstream and other serious infections. This ''super-bug,'' as it is called, has become more common in recent years. In the community, staph infections are typically spread by contact with someone's skin infection or personal items like towels that have touched the infected person’s skin.


Most staph skin infections, including those caused by MRSA, first show up as a bump or a red, infected area. It can be swollen, painful, warm to the touch and full of pus. For any type of bacterial skin infection, seek prompt medical attention. 

Relevant Conditions
Common Types
Side Effects
  • Painful skin sore
  • Pus and swelling
  • Fever
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  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "About MRSA Skin Infections." MRSA FAQs. Jan. 2011. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • CDC. "Causes of MRSA Infections." MRSA Aug. 2010. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Harvard Medical School. "Protect yourself from the MRSA superbug." Harvard Men's Health Watch Newsletter. Accessed Aug. 2013.
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