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The Most Common Wound Infections: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms and Treatment

written by: CamillaPeters • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/1/2010

In a biological sense, the skin is there to protect our body functions from bacteria and fungi. When the skin is broken, that barrier has been compromised and can allow potentially harmful organisms into our bodies.

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    These organisms can cause a whole host of issues, one of which is bacterial infections in the blood. The severity of the infection is determined by a number of factors including the infecting organism, nature of the injury where the bacteria entered, and how vigorous the host organism is, among others.

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    Staphylococcal Infections

    In "Todar's Online Textbook of Bacteriology," Dr. Kenneth Todar says that staph bacteria is one of the more common types of infections because it lives fairly easily on human skin. In most cases when the skin is broken by a small scrape or cut, the wound usually heals itself without much worry about staphylococcal bacteria.

    If not treated properly, cuts that go deep into the skin may develop an infection known as cellulitis. One of the more common sources of staph infections are cuts that have been made during surgery or other medically necessary procedures. Because it has been present in hospitals for so long, an antibiotic-resistant form of staph infection known as MRSA has developed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that this strain of the virus has shown resistance to many common antibiotics, including amoxicillin and penicillin. This resistance makes treating these infections much more difficult.

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    Sporotrichosis

    The Centers for Disease Control reports that fungus Sporothrix schenckii, the fungus that causes the infection sporotrichosis, is most commonly found in plant materials such as hay, mulch, or rose bushes. Many times, individuals performing yard work will stick themselves with sharp thorns or sticks, which could lead to exposure to the fungus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the incubation period for the infection can be anywhere from one week to twelve weeks. It begins as a discolored lump at the infection site (perhaps red or purple). More of these irregularities will appear as the infection spreads and reaches the lymph nodes. Further, the body develops unsightly lesions which burst, ooze, and become painful. In the case where a person has a weak immune system, the infection will spread to other places within the body, including the organs.

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    Vibrio Infections

    Vibrio vulnificus is a salt-water dwelling bacteria which can be found in the southeast United States. This is a life-threatening bacteria that can infect people if they've been swimming in contaminated waters. Dr Michael Bross, in a 2007 article in "American Family Physician," states that Vibrio vulnificus develops quickly as cellulitis with additional flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the bloodstream. Unfortunately, about 1 in 6 people who become infected by Vibrio vulnificus die from side effects of the infection.

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