Staphylococcus bacteria is bacteria in the Staphylococcus genus, a very common bacterial genus which is very widely distributed throughout the world, making it a familiar sight in doctors offices and labs. In fact, you are hosting a few Staphylococcus species right this very minute, because these bacteria are part of the body's natural bacterial fauna. The most famous Staphylococcus species is probably S. aureus, the bacterium responsible for the well known “staph” infections which plague people of all ages.
Under a microscope, staph bacteria look like little clusters of marbles, explaining the “coccus” in the name, a reference to a Greek word meaning “berry.” Many bacterial species share this distinctive round shape, which is why several genera have the “coccus” suffix. These spherical bacteria are Gram positive, which means that when a Gram stain is applied, the bacteria turn bright violet, making them very easy to see under a microscope.
Some Staphylococcus species are part of the natural fauna present on the body, and they are found readily on the skin and around the mucus membranes. In the case of the infamous S. aureus, the bacteria can contribute to the development of opportunistic infections if it senses a weak point in the body such as a cut. An infection with Staphylococcus can cause boils, skin infections, abscesses, and ulcerations, and in large quantities, the bacteria can cause toxic shock syndrome, a serious complication of bacterial infection.
People pass Staphylococcus bacteria between each other with casual physical contact, and the bacteria can also transfer to things which people handle, like doorknobs, bedding, countertops, and taps. This is a major problem in hospitals, where controlling the spread of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus bacteria has become a huge issue. Staphylococcus can also colonize poorly-handled food, causing food poisoning, and some species are naturally present in the soil. All told, there are around 30 known species of Staphylococcus.
A conventional Staphylococcus infection can be treated with antibiotics, which may be administered orally or applied directly to the site of a skin infection in the form of a topical cream. However, Staphylococcus is a very crafty bacterial genus, and a number of strains have developed antibiotic resistance, which means that the infection may not always respond to treatment. It may take several forms of antibiotics to find a version which can attack the bacteria effectively. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a major issue in hospitals worldwide.