Bacteria that Inhabit the Skin

The skin is typically dry and salty, providing an environment inhospitable to many microorganisms. Members of the genus Staphylococcus, however, thrive under these conditions. The pro-pionic acid bacteria, which were discussed earlier, inhabit anaerobic microenvironments of the skin.

The Genus Staphylococcus

Staphylococcus species are Gram-positive cocci that are facultative anaerobes. Most, such as S. epidermidis, reside harmlessly as a component of the normal flora of the skin. Like most bacteria that aerobically respire, Staphylococcus species are catalase positive. This distinguishes them from Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and Lactococcus species, which are also Gram-positive cocci but are obligate fermenters that lack the enzyme catalase. Several species of Staphylococcus are notable for their medical significance. Staphylococcus aureus causes a variety of diseases, including skin and wound infections, as well as food poisoning. Staphylococcus saprophyticus causes urinary tract infections. Even Staphylococcus species that are typically part of the normal flora can cause infections in people who have underlying medical problems.

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