What Exactly Is Staphylococcus…. by Peju Adeniran
Let me first say, that today’s story is not entirely mine.
The people I’m talking about today were not my patients directly.
It was a colleague of mine, who had been treating this couple for infertility, for about three months, who told me their story.
They had undergone tests and there was no medical evidence of any kind that would make fertility a problem.
One day they came into his office as usual and the woman had passed him a note on the sly indicating that she wanted to see him privately without her husband present.
My friend made her know that it was okay and a while later, she returned alone and told my friend she knew the cause of their infertility.
“Doctor, promise that you won’t tell my husband, but I know the reason why I can’t bear my husband a child. It is because of my staphylococcus and I have been treating it without his knowledge for a long time. If he knows that the fault is from me, he will most likely divorce me.”
She told him that she had been diagnosed at a herbal clinic where she had gone complaining of waist-pain and sleeplessness.
My colleague was understandably depressed after she left and as we sat in the doctor’s lounge that day, he wondered.
“What is it that makes some people comfortable with the idea of spreading wrong information just to make money from gullible people? It’s this kind of mis-information that makes the doctor’s job doubly difficult.”
My colleague was right. There is a lot f mis-information about Staphylococcus.
Staphylococcus is one of the most “popular” bacteria in Nigeria today. Not just because it is common in incidence, but because it has been publicized as being the root cause of many diseases like “barrenness”, “waist-pain”, “moving sensation around the body”, “genital discharge and itching”, “tiredness”, “heat inside the body”, “watery sperm” and a multitude of other “diseases”.
This mis-information started a few years ago. It was spread by some practitioners of “alternative medicine” and has remained a source of angst for practicing physicians in Nigeria.
Many times, patients come into the consulting room and tell you that they are infected with Staphylococcus. They then ask for treatment, instead of asking to be diagnosed for what their problem might be. Most of the time, they are wrong, and their problems have nothing whatsoever to do with Staphylococcus.
Staphylococcus is a common bacteria, especially in the tropical region. There are over thirty different species of the bacteria and not all infect humans; many of them in fact, prefer other animals, and each is responsible for a specific ailment.
This bacteria is usually found on the skin, clothes, around the face, and body environment of children, adults and the aged. While it can be responsible for some diseases, it simply isn’t true that it is responsible for all that is being claimed in its name.
These bacteria can live harmlessly on the surface of the skin, especially around the nose, mouth, genitals, and anus. But when the skin is punctured or broken for any reason, the staphylococcus bacteria can enter the wound and cause an infection.
Most of the time, they are minor skin infections which are more exaggerated in people with skin problems like burns or eczema.
Staphylococcus. Aureus, one of the most common of the lot, causes skin infections like folliculitis, (infected hair follicles) boils (furuncles), impetigo, and cellulitis which are limited to a small area of a person’s skin. S. aureus can also release toxins (poisons) that may lead to illnesses like food poisoning or toxic shock syndrome
It is possible, but rare, to get infected through contaminated objects, because the bacteria is often spread through skin-to-skin contact, and can also be spread from person to person among those who live close together in group situations (such as in school hostels ). Usually this happens when people with skin infections share things like bed linens, towels, or clothing.
Warm, humid environments can contribute to staphylococcus infections, so excessive sweating can increase someone’s chances of developing an infection.
Although it’s very rare, infections caused by S. aureus can occasionally become serious. This happens when the bacteria move from a break in the skin into the bloodstream. This can lead to infections in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, bones, joints, heart, blood, and central nervous system.
This is more likely in people whose immune systems have been weakened by another disease — or by certain medications, like chemotherapy for cancer.
Occasionally patients having surgery may get more serious types of staphylococcal infections.
Like we saw from the patient above, many myths surround Staphylococcus. Next week, I will show you some of the most common myths that surround this popular bacteria.