In the realm of microbiology, Staphylococcus epidermidis is a bacterium that frequently garners attention, albeit for less ominous reasons than its notorious cousin, Staphylococcus aureus.
Yet, beneath its seemingly innocuous exterior lies the potential to cause significant health issues, particularly systemic diseases.
In this article, we embark on a journey to explore the world of Staphylococcus epidermidis, uncovering the systemic diseases it can induce and delving into the fascinating intricacies of this bacterium.
What is Staphylococcus epidermidis?
Staphylococcus epidermidis lives on human skin with the help of commensalism or symbiosis as the case may be. It is commonly found on the skin of healthy individuals as a normal flora and it is generally non-pathogenic – meaning that it does not cause disease.
This bacteria is notoriously known for biofilm formation which increases the bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics in the case of infection thereby making it difficult for these infections to be treated. Interestingly, biofilms can form on both living and non-living surfaces.
A Microbiological Perspective
Also, Staphylococcus epidermidis is a gram-positive bacteria that are facultative anaerobe. Facultative anaerobic indicates that this bacteria is capable of living with or without oxygen.
This effectively means that this bacteria has the mechanism of switching between aerobic and anaerobic respiration depending on the availability of oxygen in their environment.
In contrast, obligate anaerobes can only survive in environments where oxygen is not present hence the presence of oxygen inactivates them.
What is a Systemic Disease?
In the human body, we have cells, tissues, organs, and systems. The systems of human biology include the endocrine system, the reproductive system, the respiratory system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, the circulatory system, and the central nervous system.
A systemic disease is a disorder that affects multiple organs and tissues or affects the body as a whole. For instance, bacteremia is a systemic infection because it is an infection that is in the bloodstream and this infection affects the entirety of the body.
What systemic disease is caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis?
Here’s a quick list of the systemic diseases caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis according to this study.
- Infectious Endocarditis. This happens when a serious bacterial infection of the inner lining of the heart and its valves is infected by bacteria. The growth of the bacteria attached to the heart valves can cause damage to the heart valves, leading to leakage and other problems.
- Sepsis. It occurs when a person’s immune system overreacts to an invading bacteria thereby leading to widespread inflammation in the body. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition because it can lead to organ failure, shock, and even death. Approximately 30% of people who develop sepsis die from it.
- Shunt infection. Shunts are generally used to relieve the pressure of the excess cerebrospinal fluid around the brain but infections occur when microorganisms enter the ventricular system of the brain and spinal cord through a shunt. The chances of infection increase when the immune system is weakened.
- Catheter-related bloodstream infection. These are serious life-threatening medical conditions that occur when bacteria or other microorganisms like fungi enter the body via a catheter and make their way to the bloodstream. CRBSIs occur when a catheter is inserted, removed, or manipulated.
Endocarditis: A Serious Systemic Disease
One of the most concerning systemic diseases caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis is infective endocarditis.
Infective endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium, the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. This condition is potentially life-threatening and requires prompt medical attention.
Staphylococcus epidermidis is known for its affinity to adhere to artificial heart valves and other cardiovascular devices.
Once attached, it can form biofilms, making it challenging for the immune system and antibiotics to combat the infection effectively.
Symptoms of infective endocarditis may include fever, fatigue, heart murmurs, and signs of septicemia, such as petechiae and emboli.
If left untreated, it can lead to heart valve damage, heart failure, and other serious complications.
Where is Staphylococcus epidermidis found?
It is found on the skin and mucous membranes. They are also commonly found in the human epithelial tissue.
The mucous membrane is found in the inner surfaces of certain body cavities and organs including the reproductive tract, digestive tract, and respiratory tract.
The mucous membrane regulates the passage of substances into and out of the body and it has a mechanism that helps it trap Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria and pathogens.
The human epithelial tissue performs similar functions but notably is that while the mucous membrane is composed of a single layer of epithelial cells, the human epithelial tissue is composed of several layers of cells thereby making it more resistant to injury and disease.
In cases of infection, they are commonly seen around indwelling medical device contamination such as cardiac devices, prosthetic joints, CNS Shunt, and catheters.
Biofilm Formation: The Key Mechanism
Understanding why Staphylococcus epidermidis is particularly adept at causing systemic diseases like infective endocarditis requires delving into its biofilm-forming abilities.
Biofilms are structured communities of bacteria encased in a protective matrix of extracellular polymeric substances.
These biofilms act as fortresses, shielding the bacteria from the host’s immune system and antibiotics.
Staphylococcus epidermidis excels at forming biofilms on medical devices like catheters and prosthetic joints, creating a conducive environment for chronic infections.
This biofilm-associated lifestyle poses a significant challenge for healthcare providers and researchers, as biofilm-related infections are notoriously difficult to treat.
Symptoms of systemic diseases can vary depending on the type of disease and these symptoms may include pain, fatigue, and fever.
For Catheter-related bloodstream infections, symptoms include fever, chills, swelling, and redness.
For shunt infections, common symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, confusion, drowsiness, and light sensitivity.
The signs and symptoms of sepsis usually vary from person to person but they generally include fever, chills, rapid breathing, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and confusion.
Prevention and treatment
Antibiotics are the most effective treatment against bacterial infections because they can help to quickly kill off harmful bacteria. But it is best you seek the counsel of a medical professional on what best to do.
For prevention, It is generally advised that precaution is taken by healthcare providers to ensure that sterile techniques when inserting catheters are followed.
Good hygiene practices such as regular washing of hands, avoiding contact with an infected individual, and keeping wounds clean can help to prevent the spread of this bacterial infections.
Is Staphylococcus epidermidis harmful
This bacteria is an opportunistic pathogen. All factors being equal, it is harmless but it can express its virulence when it gains entrance into the body of people with weakened immune systems.
Who is at risk for Staphylococcus epidermidis?
People who have indwelling medical devices such as cardiac devices, catheters, prosthetic joints, and CNS Shunts. These types of infections are usually caused for reasons such as improper use of the device, contaminated materials, incorrect placement of the device, and inadequate disinfection.
Dangers of Staphylococcus epidermidis
It is the most common cause of nosocomial blood infections and catheter-related bloodstream infections. This makes Staphylococcus epidermidis a dangerous bacteria.
Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Our Editorial Team