Staph is a bacteria, and it is mostly harmless in small quantities and healthy people. It lives alongside you in your body, and most people don’t think that much about it
However, the biology of staph is very important because it’s one of only a handful of bacteria that can lead to necrotizing fasciitis – otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria. No one likes to think about the potential of contracting something like this, but the reality is that we live with the bacteria and its potential each and every day.
For most people, it’s never really a problem. They’ll probably never get sick from staph and if they do it’ll be a routine infection like a pimple or a boil that will go away on its own. Occasionally these kinds of things will progress a bit and need medical attention in the form of antibiotics to treat the problem. Sometimes, though, antibiotics don’t do the trick. If the strain of staph is a particularly resistant one or if the person has a weakened immune system because he or she is sick from something else, there is a higher possibility that a simple, relatively routine staph infection can develop into something much more severe.
There have been both amputations and deaths from staph, MRSA (a particular antibiotic-resistant staph strain), and flesh-eating bacteria. It’s a real concern. The good news, though, is that scientists are paying attention to ways that they can help people avoid these kinds of problems. They are working on better antibiotics and treatments, and they are also working on vaccines that are designed to stop these kinds of problems before they ever get started. That’s really the best way to control them, but it’s not always easy and there’s still more work to be done. In the meantime, keeping staph at bay involves common sense. If you have a cut or scrape, treat it with antibiotic ointment and keep it clean. Wash your hands. Practice good hygiene. If you notice that your wound is not healing well, seek medical help sooner, not later. It’s much safer that way, and can help keep you from getting sicker.