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J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2001 Dec;6(3):170-4.

Skin microflora and bacterial infections of the skin.

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Department of Dermatology, University of California at San Francisco, USA.


The skin is a milieu for controlled bacterial growth. Skin supports the growth of commensal bacteria, which protect the host from pathogenic bacteria. Environmental and local factors, host immunity, and organism adherence and virulence are intricately related to cutaneous infection. Resident gram-positive bacteria include Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, and Corynebacterium sp. Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes are notoriously pathogenic in the skin. In order for bacteria to be pathogenic, they must be able to adhere to, grow on, and invade the host. Bacteria possess numerous virulence genes that allow for growth in these privileged niches. Epidermal infections caused by S. aureus and S. pyogenes include impetigo and ecthyma. Dermal infections consist of erysipelas, cellulitis, and necrotizing fasciitis. The pilosebaceous unit is involved in folliculitis, furunculosis, and carbunculosis. Moreover, S. aureus and S. pyogenes produce toxins that may elicit a superantigen response, causing massive release of cytokines. Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, toxic shock syndrome, and scarlet fever are all superantigen-mediated. Gram-negative organisms such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pasteurella multocida, Capnocytophaga canimorsus, Bartonella sp., Klebsiella rhinoscleromatis, and Vibrio vulnificus are not typical resident skin microflora but may cause cutaneous infection.

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