How long does Staphylococcus aureus last?

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria has become the leading cause of invasive device-related infections, skin and soft tissue infections, endocarditis, and several other types of infections. It is also responsible for most hospital-acquired infections.  

Several kinds of research have been carried out to fully understand different aspects of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus.

We would be discussing how long Staphylococcus aureus lasts on different surfaces as well as in the human body; the factors that affect the length of survival, and how this information can help in the prevention and control of  Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.  

How Long Does Staphylococcus Aureus Last on Surfaces 

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can last for weeks or even months on surfaces.  The persistence of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on a surface can be influenced by a number of factors regardless of the strain of Staphylococcus aureus.

These factors include the temperature and humidity of the environment, the type of surface, and the type of material used.  

1. Temperature and ultraviolet exposure in the environment 

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria have shown low survival rates under high-temperature conditions, and exposure to ultraviolet light.  

The low temperature on the other hand [between 4°C to 6°C] has been shown to improve the duration of the presence of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on surfaces.  

Under moderate temperature conditions and limited light exposure,  Staphylococcus aureus has been seen to persist for several days, although the bacterial count of the pathogen showed a significant decline as time went by. 

With short-term exposure to ultraviolet rays, Staphylococcus aureus showed a massive decline in its viability.  

2. Humidity

Unlike most other bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria have been shown to last longer on surfaces under low humid conditions. The bacteria do not seem to thrive as well as other bacteria under high humidity.

It was seen that Staphylococcus aureus bacteria still declined significantly when placed under daylight even when there was light precipitation. 

This only shows that, as long as other inhibiting factors are present, humidity does not necessarily encourage the persistence of Staphylococcus aureus on surfaces.  

3. Type of material

Staphylococcus aureus is one of the leading causes of hospital-acquired infection, therefore the spread of Staphylococcus aureus in the hospital is largely through contact.  

The type of inanimate surfaces commonly found in the hospital environment include surfaces made from fibrous materials, plastic surfaces,  polymer, metallic surfaces, flooring materials, and glass surfaces. 

Here’s a list of how long Staphylococcus aureus last on different types of  surfaces under the same temperature and humid conditions:

Cloth 1 – 70 days
Plastics 21 days  – 3 years
Stainless Steel6 hours to 6 weeks
Copper alloys30 minutes 
to 6 hours
Glass 15 – 25 days
Flooring materials4 hours to 8 weeks

Most medical equipment and furniture are made from the materials listed above. Their persistence on these surfaces can be inhibited by the use of disinfectants and cleaning materials.

How Long Does Staphylococcus Last in Living Cells? 

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How long Staphylococcus aureus lasts in a living cell is highly dependent on its ability to reproduce itself and multiply in the cell.  

Another factor that can influence the survival of Staphylococcus aureus in its host’s cell is how rapidly the bacteria is growing in the living cell.

The more rapid its growth, the easier it is to be cleared efficiently from the living cell. At this stage, it is more likely to be attacked and killed by the host’s immune system, or by treatments administered to the host.

This stage typically lasts up to several days after the initial point of infection.  

When the growth of the bacteria slows down, it adapts to its environment and develops higher resistance to external factors that could destroy it at this stage, It can produce toxins, biofilms, and other virulence factors that help it survive for longer periods, and cause harm to its host cells.

It starts to develop resistant strains that do not respond to treatment when some antibiotics are used to treat it. This phase lasts for several weeks.

On the part of the host, the cell type Staphylococcus aureus bacteria invade and the protein profile will play a role in how long Staphylococcus aureus will last in the cell.  

In the absence of antibiotics, Staphylococcus aureus is capable of persisting in human cells for long periods after the invasion and infection of cells.

The rate of replication of the bacteria within human cells is highest within the first 3 days of infection. Within this period, antibiotic therapy can be administered to infected patients to help kill the bacteria in the human body.  

Patients who have undergone treatment for Staphylococcus aureus often experience a relapse of the infection after antibiotic therapy. This further lengthens the time Staphylococcus lasts in the body.  

In humans, Staphylococcus aureus can infect the cells of the respiratory tract and mucous membranes of humans, causing skin and soft tissue infections,  pneumonia, sepsis, and bone & joint infections. 

Prevention and Control Measures for Staphylococcus Aureus 

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria persist in abiotic surfaces for time periods ranging from several weeks to even months. This makes it very easy for bacteria to be spread and transmitted in the community, and even in healthcare settings.  

The knowledge of how long Staphylococcus aureus lasts is important in preventing and controlling the spread of the bacteria. 

Some of the best practices for the prevention and control of Staphylococcus aureus  include: 

  • Hand Hygiene: This is the most important prevention & control measure for  Staphylococcus aureus. A single hand contact with an infected surface can result in recontamination of up to 5 other surfaces and 14 other people.  It is advised that proper hand washing techniques are adopted. Hand washing should be done thoroughly with soap or a disinfectant. A hand sanitizer can also be useful to kill disease pathogens present on the hands.  Healthcare workers are encouraged to comply with the regulations guiding hand hygiene in the healthcare environment.  
  • Environmental disinfection: we are encouraged to regularly disinfect our environment with cleaning agents, with emphasis placed on high-contact surfaces like hand railings, tables, desks, and door knobs. These surfaces are known to harbor dangerous infectious pathogens which can last for long periods of time.  
  • Proper testing and treatment of staphylococcus aureus: Humans can act as hosts for Staphylococcus aureus, and as a result, help spread the infection. If you suspect you have Staphylococcus aureus, it is important to see qualified medical personnel. They will guide you in testing effective treatment methods.  

Resorting to self-medication can lead to antibiotic resistance, thereby making your infection harder to treat. This would facilitate the spread of resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus.  

What Next?

It is important to observe the preventive measures listed in this article to help control the spread of Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is known to last for long periods both on surfaces and in the body. 

If you think you have an infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus, see a doctor immediately. 

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