What Are the Different Types of Bacteria in Pus?

Andrew Kirmayer
Andrew Kirmayer
Bacteria in a petri dish.
Bacteria in a petri dish.

Pus often results from an infection and is usually made up of dead white blood cells, debris from other damaged cells and tissue, and bacteria. Cells called neutrophils can kill the invaders, but are often killed in the process; bacteria in pus are therefore sometimes called pyogenic. These are often cocci, which are spherical organisms with thick cell walls, and include various Staphylococcus and Streptococcus varieties. Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria typically live on the skin and sometimes prevent fungal infections. These rarely cause disease, but the aureus variety is often found in wounds, boils, and pimples.

Individuals who come into contact with pus should wash their hands thoroughly to prevent spreading the bacteria.
Individuals who come into contact with pus should wash their hands thoroughly to prevent spreading the bacteria.

The bacteria in pus can be organisms that cause strep throat and tonsillitis. Streptococci can be seen in many skin infections. They are generally capable of causing suppurative infections, which are those that lead to the formation of pus. Some infections that trigger this reaction can lead to diseases like rheumatic fever, or bacteria can release toxins that cause shock or scarlet fever. Whether a bacterium is disease-causing or harmless depends on its genetics, chemistry, and structural composition.

Neisseriae, which can trigger meningitis and gonorrhea, survives in pus.
Neisseriae, which can trigger meningitis and gonorrhea, survives in pus.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is the organism that usually triggers bacterial pneumonia, and can also be present in middle ear infections. These bacteria in pus sometimes have an outer shell that prevents the immune system cells from engulfing and killing them. Encapsulated forms can make someone sick, but when a bacterium is non-encapsulated, it can usually be removed by blood cells. This type can be called non-virulent because it doesn't usually cause disease.

Coccus bacteria cause a number of common infections, including strep throat.
Coccus bacteria cause a number of common infections, including strep throat.

Other kinds of bacteria in pus include Neisseriae, which can trigger meningitis and gonorrhea. Many of these types live normally in mucus membranes of the body, but a couple of varieties can be dangerous and even lethal. The color of pus can vary from yellow to whitish-yellow, to yellow-brown depending on the type of bacteria and other cellular material present. Some bacteria have pigments that cause pus to be blue-green, and some white blood cells can release proteins that kill organisms while adding a distinct green color.

Pimples can become infected with the aureus variety of staph bacteria.
Pimples can become infected with the aureus variety of staph bacteria.

The bacteria in pus are typically pathogens. Pus can form on the skin as well as inside the body. By scoping the inside of the abdomen, surgeons can view infections of organs such as the liver or pancreas. Other bacteria can infect the urinary tract or even the lungs. In general, bacteria can infect a person through any cut in the skin, and pus often interferes with the healing process; shock, gangrene, or lymph node infections are sometimes the result.

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Discussion Comments

fBoyle
Staph bacteria is probably the one type of bacteria that's present in almost every type of pus. The reason is because we all carry some kind of staph bacteria on our skin. So naturally, some of it ends up in pus. And pus isn't just composed of bacteria and white blood cells, it also contains dead skin cells.

People usually get disturbed by pus, but if we think about it, it's such an amazing symptom. The type of pus, it's color and consistency can tell us so much about what is going on with our body. It can tell us the severity of an infection. When medicine was not so developed, doctors relied on these kind of symptoms to determine the disease and the best treatment.

ysmina

@SarahGen-- Yes, green pus indicates an infection.

I'm not too knowledgeable about this subject. As far as I know, pus is green, not because of bacteria but rather due to white blood cells (macrophages). The article mentioned this also. White blood cells fight bacteria and somehow this process turns the pus into a greenish color.

SarahGen

Which bacteria cause pus to be green exactly?

I got a nose piercing last week and now there is green pus around the piercing. It means it's infected right?

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    • Bacteria in a petri dish.
      By: ggw
      Bacteria in a petri dish.
    • Individuals who come into contact with pus should wash their hands thoroughly to prevent spreading the bacteria.
      By: xy
      Individuals who come into contact with pus should wash their hands thoroughly to prevent spreading the bacteria.
    • Neisseriae, which can trigger meningitis and gonorrhea, survives in pus.
      By: rob3000
      Neisseriae, which can trigger meningitis and gonorrhea, survives in pus.
    • Coccus bacteria cause a number of common infections, including strep throat.
      By: Cheryl Casey
      Coccus bacteria cause a number of common infections, including strep throat.
    • Pimples can become infected with the aureus variety of staph bacteria.
      By: Budimir Jevtic
      Pimples can become infected with the aureus variety of staph bacteria.
    • Pus often results from an infection.
      By: thegarden
      Pus often results from an infection.
    • Bandages used to cover open wounds should be sterile in order to prevent infection.
      By: Sherry Yates
      Bandages used to cover open wounds should be sterile in order to prevent infection.
    • Streptococcus pneumoniae can be present in middle ear infections.
      By: Vladimir Voronin
      Streptococcus pneumoniae can be present in middle ear infections.