The cause of infectious skin diseases

Through Barry C. Fox, MD, University of Wisconsin

Bacteria are also responsible for harmful skin infections such as, flesh-eating bacteria or necrotizing fasciitis in humans. Flesh-eating bacteria are said to be responsible for 10 percent of deaths in the United States. What are the causes and symptoms of these life-threatening bacterial skin infections?

The medical designation for flesh-eating bacteria is necrotizing fasciitis. (Image: Nephron / Public domain)

The Lymphatic system

Anatomically, in the dermis layer of the skin are the body’s channels that help return extra fluids to the heart. This is called the lymphatic system. Think of the lymphatic system as a giant spider web all over your body, which slowly helps bring any fluid outside of the arteries and veins back to the heart.

This fluid is clear and yellow in color and resembles the fluid from the inside of a simple bulb in its character. Well, in addition to channeling fluid, the lymphatic system also helps the immune system to transport the cells needed to help fight infection.

The lymphatic system channels into the lymph nodes, which is why the lymph nodes are enlarged when there is any type of infection. When the lymphatic system is involved in an infection, often with an abscess nearby, there is a red streak visible on the skin, known as lymphangitis.

This is a transcript of the video series An introduction to infectious diseases. Look at it now Wondrium.

Types of bacterial skin infections

Another skin infection is known as cellulitis. When this happens, the infection measures over 2 inches and spreads above and below the suspected portal of entry. It is usually hot, thickened, painful, and very red, and can spread to the bloodstream and lymph nodes. Obviously, Staphylococcus aureus and strep throat are the most common culprits of cellulitis.

An image of the hand of a man with lymphangitis.
Lymphangitis reveals that the lymphatic system is struggling with an infection. (Image: TisforThan / Shutterstock)

Another example is erysipelas on the face, which is caused by strep germs. All cellulitis and lymphangitis will require oral or intravenous antibiotics, or both, depending on the healthcare professional’s assessment of the severity of the infection.

Piercing wounds of the hands and feet, as well as animal bites, are also forms of cellulitis and lymphangitis. However, under these circumstances, it is the bacteria in the object causing the puncture, such as bacteria in the dog’s or cat’s mouth, that are the culprit for the infection, rather than the bacteria in the skin itself. .

Flesh-eating bacteria: causes, symptoms and treatments

The worst type of skin infection involves all layers of the skin, resulting in the destruction and essentially death of skin and muscle tissue. It has many names, and the common term is flesh-eating bacteria, but the medical name is necrotizing fasciitis. Although it can be caused by Staphylococcus aureus Where Streptococcus, there are other bacteria that, alone or in combination, can lead to this condition.

Management of necrotizing fasciitis challenges. Virtually all patients have a body-wide response to sepsis, requiring infection control, antibiotics, and intensive care support. Necrotizing fasciitis is considered a medical emergency and surgery is still required. Multiple surgeries, and even amputations, may be needed not only to control infecting bacteria, but also to remove tissue that is no longer alive.

Learn more about the history of antibiotic development.

MRSA: Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, abbreviated MRSA, has been named by the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, as one of the most important resistant bacteria today. The original strains of MRSA date back almost 40 years in hospital settings. Staphylococcus the bacteria have acquired an important extrachromosomal genetic element known as a plasmid, which makes them resistant to all antibiotics except the antibiotic vancomycin.

Current concerns about MRSA focus on a slightly different variety of MRSA called community-acquired MRSA. This organism appeared in the late 1990s and has generally continued to increase in prevalence in the community. It has a smaller resistance plasmid so there are more antibiotics that can be used for treatment compared to the hospital strain of MRSA.

Characteristics of antibiotic resistant bacteria

MRSA is not necessarily stronger or more virulent than Staphylococcus aureus, but because it is resistant to many common antibiotics, it is more difficult to treat and may require intravenous treatment. It may also be more likely to cause abscess to form. Anyone can acquire the germ because it is spread through skin-to-skin contact or contact with infected surfaces.

The most common presentations of community-based MRSA are skin infections, usually boils. But just having the germ on your skin doesn’t automatically mean you’ll have problems with infections. An infection may never occur and the germ may be replaced by normal skin bacteria over time.

Learn more about diseases caused by bacteria.

Travel Infectious Skin Disease Disorders

An example of skin infections is caused by bot fly attacks. The larva of the fly infests the skin and lives in the subcutaneous layer, creating a painful pustule. Over time, the larva continues to grow, as does the pain. The adult bot fly resembles a bumblebee, so if you are traveling to Central or South America, be on the lookout.

Male leg with many blisters caused by sandfly bites.
The bite of a sandfly causes skin infections. (Image: YewLoon Lam / Shutterstock)

Another skin infection to watch out for is leishmaniasis. If you are traveling to one of the 90 countries where the sand fly vector resides, beware of a small fly that is about 1/3 the size of a mosquito.

Tourists in Costa Rica, for example, have experienced small bites that increase in size and become ulcerative. This infection is caused by Leishmania protozoa transmitted by the sandfly.

Another infection to watch out for when traveling is called cutaneous larva migrans. This skin infection is caused by a dog or cat intestinal hookworm, and it can be contracted by walking on contaminated lakes and ocean beaches. The first sign could be the intense itching of the site. Then we would see a raised red rash with a snake-like progression, which is the burrowing path of the worm.

Therefore, it is very important to be careful while traveling and to seek immediate medical attention if the situation becomes difficult to control.

Common questions about bacterial skin infections

Q: What is lymphangitis?

Lymphangitis occurs when the lymphatic system becomes infected. Lymphangitis is caused by a bacterial infection but is not as dangerous as a flesh-eating bacteria infection.

Q: What is the culprit behind Flesh Eating Infection?

Flesh-eating bacterial infections are usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus Where Streptococcus, but other bacteria, alone or in combination, can also cause this skin infection. It should be noted that this infection is very difficult to manage.

Q: What is the treatment for flesh-eating bacterial infection?

The most definitive treatment to eradicate flesh-eating bacteria the infection is surgery. In some cases, amputation is necessary to remove dead tissue and prevent the infection from progressing.

Keep reading
Antibiotic resistance has developed, but what can we do to stop it?
How different groups of antibiotics fight bacteria and how bacteria fight back
Innate immunity: the first functional division of the immune system


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