What is Impetigo?


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Red bumps on the upper region of the mouth.
Impetigo is characterized by vesicles, pustules, or bullae that rupture, producing encrusted sores. (credit: modification of work by FDA)

OpenStax Microbiology

The skin infection impetigo causes the formation of vesicles, pustules, and possibly bullae, often around the nose and mouth. Bullae are large, fluid-filled blisters that measure at least 5 mm in diameter. Impetigo can be diagnosed as either nonbullous or bullous. In nonbullous impetigo, vesicles and pustules rupture and become encrusted sores. Typically the crust is yellowish, often with exudate draining from the base of the lesion. In bullous impetigo, the bullae fill and rupture, resulting in larger, draining, encrusted lesions.

Especially common in children, impetigo is particularly concerning because it is highly contagious. Impetigo can be caused by S. aureus alone, by Streptococcus pyogenes alone, or by coinfection of S. aureus and S. pyogenes. Impetigo is often diagnosed through observation of its characteristic appearance, although culture and susceptibility testing may also be used.

Topical or oral antibiotic treatment is typically effective in treating most cases of impetigo. However, cases caused by S. pyogenes can lead to serious sequelae (pathological conditions resulting from infection, disease, injury, therapy, or other trauma) such as acute glomerulonephritis (AGN), which is severe inflammation in the kidneys.


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