The Infections of the Skin


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a) Acne (labeled whitehead) on a person’s cheek. B) A drawing of skin with a yellow bubble labeled pus. This is below a raised region on the skin.
(a) Acne is a bacterial infection of the skin that manifests as a rash of inflamed hair follicles (folliculitis). The large whitehead near the center of the cheek is an infected hair follicle that has become purulent (or suppurative), leading to the formation of a furuncle. (b) An abscess is a pus-filled lesion. (credit b: modification of work by Bruce Blaus)

OpenStax Microbiology

While the microbiota of the skin can play a protective role, it can also cause harm in certain cases. Often, an opportunistic pathogen residing in the skin microbiota of one individual may be transmitted to another individual more susceptible to an infection. For example, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can often take up residence in the nares of health care workers and hospital patients; though harmless on intact, healthy skin, MRSA can cause infections if introduced into other parts of the body, as might occur during surgery or via a post-surgical incision or wound. This is one reason why clean surgical sites are so important.

Injury or damage to the skin can allow microbes to enter deeper tissues, where nutrients are more abundant and the environment is more conducive to bacterial growth. Wound infections are common after a puncture or laceration that damages the physical barrier of the skin. Microbes may infect structures in the dermis, such as hair follicles and glands, causing a localized infection, or they may reach the bloodstream, which can lead to a systemic infection.

In some cases, infectious microbes can cause a variety of rashes or lesions that differ in their physical characteristics. These rashes can be the result of inflammation reactions or direct responses to toxins produced by the microbes. The table below lists some of the medical terminology used to describe skin lesions and rashes based on their characteristics. It is important to note that many different diseases can lead to skin conditions of very similar appearance; thus the terms used in the table are generally not exclusive to a particular type of infection or disease.

A table labeled types of skin lesions. Crust is shown as a raised region on the surface of the skin. Cyst is shown as a large white sphere in the upper layers of the skin. Macule is shown as a dark mark on the surface. Papule is shown as a raised bubble on the surface. Pusture is shown as a large yellow sphere in the upper layers of the skin. Ulcer is a large cavity in the skin. Vesicle is a small blue bubble in the upper regions of the skin. Wheal is a small blue bubble on the surface of the skin.
Numerous causes can lead to skin lesions of various types, some of which are very similar in appearance. (credit: modification of work by Bruce Blaus)
Source: OpenStax Microbiology

Source:

Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology