Staph Infection vs. Strep Infection

What's the Difference?

Staph infection and Strep infection are both caused by bacteria, but they are caused by different types of bacteria and have distinct characteristics. Staphylococcus bacteria cause Staph infection, which can lead to various skin infections, abscesses, and even life-threatening conditions like pneumonia or bloodstream infections. On the other hand, Streptococcus bacteria cause Strep infection, which can result in strep throat, skin infections, scarlet fever, or more severe conditions like rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation. While both infections can be treated with antibiotics, Staph infection is often resistant to certain antibiotics, making it more challenging to treat. Additionally, Strep infection is more commonly transmitted through respiratory droplets, while Staph infection can be acquired through direct contact with infected skin or objects.


AttributeStaph InfectionStrep Infection
Caused byBacteria called StaphylococcusBacteria called Streptococcus
Commonly affectsSkin, wounds, respiratory systemThroat, tonsils, skin, respiratory system
SymptomsBoils, impetigo, cellulitis, pneumoniaSore throat, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, skin infections
TransmissionDirect contact, contaminated objectsRespiratory droplets, direct contact
Drug-resistant strainsMethicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)None reported
ComplicationsSepticemia, endocarditis, pneumoniaRheumatic fever, kidney inflammation, scarlet fever

Further Detail


Staph infection and strep infection are two common types of bacterial infections that can affect various parts of the body. While both are caused by different bacteria, they share some similarities in terms of symptoms and treatment. Understanding the differences and similarities between these infections is crucial for proper diagnosis and effective treatment.


Staph infection, also known as a staphylococcal infection, is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium is commonly found on the skin or in the nose of healthy individuals. However, it can cause an infection when it enters the body through a cut or wound. On the other hand, strep infection, also known as a streptococcal infection, is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes. This bacterium is highly contagious and can be transmitted through respiratory droplets or direct contact with infected individuals.


Both staph and strep infections can cause a range of symptoms, although there are some differences. Staph infections often result in skin infections, such as boils, impetigo, or cellulitis. These infections can cause redness, swelling, pain, and pus-filled lesions. In more severe cases, staph infections can lead to bloodstream infections, pneumonia, or bone and joint infections. On the other hand, strep infections commonly cause strep throat, which is characterized by a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and swollen tonsils. Strep throat may also be accompanied by fever, headache, and fatigue.


Diagnosing staph and strep infections typically involves a combination of physical examination, medical history review, and laboratory tests. In the case of staph infections, a healthcare provider may examine the affected area, collect a sample of the pus or fluid, and send it to a laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing. This helps identify the specific strain of Staphylococcus aureus and determine the most effective antibiotic treatment. Similarly, strep infections can be diagnosed through a throat swab, which is then cultured to identify the presence of Streptococcus pyogenes. Rapid strep tests are also available, providing quick results for strep throat diagnosis.


Treating staph and strep infections often involves the use of antibiotics. However, the choice of antibiotics may differ due to variations in bacterial resistance patterns. Staph infections are commonly treated with antibiotics such as methicillin, oxacillin, or vancomycin. In some cases, drainage of abscesses or surgical intervention may be necessary. On the other hand, strep infections are usually treated with antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure complete eradication of the bacteria and prevent the development of antibiotic resistance.


Both staph and strep infections can lead to complications if left untreated or if the infection spreads to other parts of the body. Staph infections can cause serious conditions such as sepsis, endocarditis (infection of the heart valves), or toxic shock syndrome. Strep infections, if not properly treated, can result in rheumatic fever, which can lead to heart valve damage, kidney inflammation, or scarlet fever. It is essential to seek medical attention promptly to prevent these potential complications.


Preventing staph and strep infections involves practicing good hygiene and taking necessary precautions. Regularly washing hands with soap and water, especially before and after handling food or treating wounds, can help reduce the risk of infection. Avoiding close contact with individuals who have active infections, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and properly cleaning and disinfecting wounds can also help prevent the spread of these bacteria.


Staph and strep infections are two distinct types of bacterial infections caused by different bacteria. While staph infections primarily affect the skin, strep infections commonly manifest as strep throat. Both infections can lead to more severe complications if left untreated. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment with antibiotics are crucial for successful management. Practicing good hygiene and taking preventive measures can help reduce the risk of contracting these infections. If you suspect you have a staph or strep infection, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment.

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