Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious superficial bacterial infection typically caused by Staphylococcus Staphylococcus Staphylococcus is a medically important genera of Gram-positive, aerobic cocci. These bacteria form clusters resembling grapes on culture plates. Staphylococci are ubiquitous for humans, and many strains compose the normal skin flora. Staphylococcus aureus (most common) and Streptococcus Streptococcus Streptococcus is one of the two medically important genera of gram-positive cocci, the other being Staphylococcus. Streptococci are identified as different species on blood agar on the basis of their hemolytic pattern and sensitivity to optochin and bacitracin. There are many pathogenic species of streptococci, including S. pyogenes, S. agalactiae, S. pneumoniae, and the viridans streptococci. Streptococcus pyogenes. Impetigo most commonly presents in children aged 2 to 5 years with lesions that evolve from papules to vesicles to pustules, which eventually break down to form characteristic “honey-colored” crusts. Infection can either be primary (bacterial infection of healthy, intact skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin) or secondary (infection of pre-existing abrasions). The diagnosis is clinical, and management includes topical or systemic antibiotic therapy. Complications of impetigo include post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, cellulitis Cellulitis Cellulitis is a common infection caused by bacteria that affects the dermis and subcutaneous tissue of the skin. It is frequently caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. The skin infection presents as an erythematous and edematous area with warmth and tenderness. Cellulitis, and scarlet fever Scarlet fever Scarlet fever is a clinical syndrome consisting of streptococcal pharyngitis accompanied by fever and a characteristic rash caused by pyrogenic exotoxins. Scarlet fever is a non-suppurative complication of streptococcal infection that is more commonly seen in children. Incidence peaks during the winter and spring in temperate climates. Scarlet Fever.

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Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

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Epidemiology and Etiology

Epidemiology

  • Any age can be affected
  • Most commonly affects children aged 25 years
  • Known to cause epidemics or outbreaks in preschools and schools (easily spread among individuals with close contact)

Etiology

  • Impetigo is a bacterial skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin infection caused by:
    • Staphylococcus Staphylococcus Staphylococcus is a medically important genera of Gram-positive, aerobic cocci. These bacteria form clusters resembling grapes on culture plates. Staphylococci are ubiquitous for humans, and many strains compose the normal skin flora. Staphylococcus aureus: causes 80% of cases, both bullous and non-bullous forms
    • Streptococcus Streptococcus Streptococcus is one of the two medically important genera of gram-positive cocci, the other being Staphylococcus. Streptococci are identified as different species on blood agar on the basis of their hemolytic pattern and sensitivity to optochin and bacitracin. There are many pathogenic species of streptococci, including S. pyogenes, S. agalactiae, S. pneumoniae, and the viridans streptococci. Streptococcus pyogenes (group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus): causes approximately 10% of cases, non-bullous forms only
    • S. aureus and S. pyogenes co-infection: occurs in approximately 10% of cases
  • 2 forms:
    1. Primary impetigo: bacterial infection of intact, healthy skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin
    2. Secondary impetigo (impetiginization): more common, secondary infection of pre-existing skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin lesions, such as scabies Scabies Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, which presents most commonly with intense pruritus, characteristic linear burrows, and erythematous papules, particularly in the interdigital folds and the flexor aspects of the wrists. Scabies, insect bites, small cuts, eczema Eczema Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic, relapsing, pruritic, inflammatory skin disease that occurs more frequently in children, although adults can also be affected. The condition is often associated with elevated serum levels of IgE and a personal or family history of atopy. Skin dryness, erythema, oozing, crusting, and lichenification are present. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema), etc.
  • Transmission: 
    • Highly contagious
    • Spread by direct contact with lesions or with nasal carrier
  • Risk factors
    • Children aged 25 years
    • Skin trauma (e.g., abrasion, lacerations, animal bite, or sting)
    • Poor hygiene
    • Crowded conditions
    • Warm, humid weather (increased incidence in the summer)
    • Participation in sports with skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin-to- skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin contact
    • Diabetes mellitus Diabetes mellitus Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease characterized by hyperglycemia and dysfunction of the regulation of glucose metabolism by insulin. Type 1 DM is diagnosed mostly in children and young adults as the result of autoimmune destruction of β cells in the pancreas and the resulting lack of insulin. Type 2 DM has a significant association with obesity and is characterized by insulin resistance. Diabetes Mellitus
    • Malnutrition Malnutrition Malnutrition is a clinical state caused by an imbalance or deficiency of calories and/or micronutrients and macronutrients. The 2 main manifestations of acute severe malnutrition are marasmus (total caloric insufficiency) and kwashiorkor (protein malnutrition with characteristic edema). Malnutrition in children in resource-limited countries

Clinical Presentation

There are 3 variants of impetigo:

Non-bullous impetigo

  • Most common: approximately 70% of cases
  • Previously known as “contagious impetigo”
  • Begins as a rash with papulesvesicles surrounded by erythema → pustules, which rupture and ooze exudate (pus and serous fluid) that dries → pruritic honey-colored crusts that heal with no scarring
  • Lesions are non-tender and pruritic
  • Lesions usually occur around the mouth and nose Nose The nose is the human body's primary organ of smell and functions as part of the upper respiratory system. The nose may be best known for inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, but it also contributes to other important functions, such as tasting. The anatomy of the nose can be divided into the external nose and the nasal cavity. Anatomy of the Nose and/or on the hands

Bullous impetigo

  • 30% of cases
  • Begins as a rash with papules → vesicles → large, flaccid bullae, which are pruritic and rupture, oozing cloudy or yellow fluid (pus) → dries into brown crusts → may lead to scarring in severe infections 
  • Positive Nikolsky sign: sloughing off of the outermost layer of skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin upon slight rubbing or lateral traction
  • Lesions usually occur on the trunk
  • May also present with systemic symptoms (fatigue, fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever, weakness, general malaise)

Ecthyma

  • Rare; exact incidence unknown
  • Ulcerative form that affects deeper layers of the dermis (also known as “deep impetigo”)
  • Begins as a rash with papules → vesicles → sores that are painful, erythematous, and fluid- or pus-filled → coin-sized ulcers with a “punched-out” appearance covered with thick gray-yellow scabs → usually lead to scarring 
  • Lesions usually occur on the extremities
  • Ecthyma gangrenosum is most commonly associated with Pseudomonas Pseudomonas Pseudomonas is a non-lactose-fermenting, gram-negative bacillus that produces pyocyanin, which gives it a characteristic blue-green color. Pseudomonas is found ubiquitously in the environment, as well as in moist reservoirs, such as hospital sinks and respiratory equipment. Pseudomonas bacteremia, seen in patients who are critically ill and immunocompromised; hemorrhagic pustules evolve into necrotic ulcers.

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Localized Rashes Localized Rashes Rashes are a group of diseases that cause abnormal coloration and texture to the skin. The etiologies are numerous but can include irritation, allergens, infections, or inflammatory conditions. Rashes that present in only 1 area of the body are called localized rashes. Generalized rashes occur diffusely throughout the body. Generalized and Localized Rashes: Impetigo, Cellulitis and Herpes Zoster Herpes Zoster Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a linear, double-stranded DNA virus in the Herpesviridae family. Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is more common in adults and occurs due to the reactivation of VZV. Varicella-Zoster Virus/Chickenpox

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually clinical, based on the natural sequence of the lesions and the presence of honey-colored crusts on pediatric patients aged 2–5 years.

  • Gram stain and culture of exudate are not usually required; only needed in the case of:
    • Resistance to therapy
    • Recurrence
    • Inconclusive clinical diagnosis
  • Imaging: X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and/or bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Structure of Bones scintigraphy may be performed in the case of severe joint pain Pain Pain has accompanied humans since they first existed, first lamented as the curse of existence and later understood as an adaptive mechanism that ensures survival. Pain is the most common symptomatic complaint and the main reason why people seek medical care. Physiology of Pain to confirm or rule out septic arthritis Septic arthritis Septic arthritis is an infection of the joint due to direct inoculation, contiguous extension, or hematogenous spread of infectious organisms into the joint space. This process causes an acute, inflammatory, monoarticular arthritis. Septic Arthritis or osteomyelitis Osteomyelitis Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone that results from the spread of microorganisms from the blood (hematogenous), nearby infected tissue, or open wounds (non-hematogenous). Infections are most commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Osteomyelitis

Management and Complications

Management

Management depends on the type and severity of the infection.

  • Mild to moderate cases of non-bullous impetigo:
    • Topical antibiotic creams or ointments for 7 days (e.g., mupirocin, retapamulin)
  • Bullous impetigo, ecthyma, and severe cases of non-bullous impetigo:
    • First-line: oral antibiotics including cephalexin and dicloxacillin
    • If β-hemolytic streptococci are detected, oral penicillin is preferred.
  • Cases of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) impetigo:
    • Clindamycin, trimethoprim Trimethoprim The sulfonamides are a class of antimicrobial drugs inhibiting folic acid synthesize in pathogens. The prototypical drug in the class is sulfamethoxazole. Although not technically sulfonamides, trimethoprim, dapsone, and pyrimethamine are also important antimicrobial agents inhibiting folic acid synthesis. The agents are often combined with sulfonamides, resulting in a synergistic effect. Sulfonamides and Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, or doxycycline
    • Note: Retrospective data indicate that at standard doses, children < 8 years can receive up to 5 courses of doxycycline without detectable evidence of tooth staining. Drug-induced tooth discoloration in children had been reported with older classes of tetracyclines Tetracyclines Tetracyclines are a class of broad-spectrum antibiotics indicated for a wide variety of bacterial infections. These medications bind the 30S ribosomal subunit to inhibit protein synthesis of bacteria. Tetracyclines cover gram-positive and gram-negative organisms, as well as atypical bacteria such as chlamydia, mycoplasma, spirochetes, and even protozoa. Tetracyclines.

Prevention of spread

  • Regular handwashing
  • Covering of open skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin lesions
  • Children may return to school 24 hours after beginning antibiotic treatment

Complications

  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis Poststreptococcal Glomerulonephritis Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN) is a type of nephritis that is caused by a prior infection with group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus (GAS). The clinical presentation of PSGN can range from asymptomatic, microscopic hematuria to full-blown acute nephritic syndrome, which is characterized by red-to-brown urine, proteinuria, edema, and acute kidney injury. Poststreptococcal Glomerulonephritis
  • Scarlet fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever
  • Cellulitis
  • Septic arthritis 
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS), also known as Ritter disease and staphylococcal epidermal necrolysis, is a toxin-mediated condition caused by Staphylococcus aureus. The exfoliative toxin produced disseminates and cleaves desmoglein 1 in the epidermis, causing separation and detachment of the skin. Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome (SSSS)
  • Septicemia or sepsis Sepsis Organ dysfunction resulting from a dysregulated systemic host response to infection separates sepsis from uncomplicated infection. The etiology is mainly bacterial and pneumonia is the most common known source. Patients commonly present with fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypotension, and/or altered mentation. Sepsis and Septic Shock
  • Superimposed bacterial infection of primary impetigo lesions

Differential Diagnosis

The following conditions also present with bullae and serve as differential diagnoses for bullous impetigo:

  • Pemphigus vulgaris Pemphigus vulgaris Bullous pemphigoid and pemphigus vulgaris are two different blistering autoimmune diseases. In pemphigus vulgaris, autoantibodies attack the desmosomal proteins, which connect the keratinocytes to one another. This attack results in a more severe, potentially fatal condition with fragile, flaccid blisters, usually with significant mucosal involvement. Bullous Pemphigoid and Pemphigus Vulgaris and bullous pemphigoid: autoimmune blistering disorders that present with tense blisters and bullae in the case of bullous pemphigoid and flaccid bullae and mucosal erosions in the case of pemphigus vulgaris
  • Second-degree burns Burns A burn is a type of injury to the skin and deeper tissues caused by exposure to heat, electricity, chemicals, friction, or radiation. Burns are classified according to their depth as superficial (1st-degree), partial-thickness (2nd-degree), full-thickness (3rd-degree), and 4th-degree burns. Burns: tissue injury caused by local heat exposure and heating of the respective tissue. Second-degree burns Burns A burn is a type of injury to the skin and deeper tissues caused by exposure to heat, electricity, chemicals, friction, or radiation. Burns are classified according to their depth as superficial (1st-degree), partial-thickness (2nd-degree), full-thickness (3rd-degree), and 4th-degree burns. Burns are superficial, limited to the epidermis, and present as hyperemia, wet wound bed, intact sensibility, and blistering. 
  • Varicella: primary infection with varicella zoster virus Virus Viruses are infectious, obligate intracellular parasites composed of a nucleic acid core surrounded by a protein capsid. Viruses can be either naked (non-enveloped) or enveloped. The classification of viruses is complex and based on many factors, including type and structure of the nucleoid and capsid, the presence of an envelope, the replication cycle, and the host range. Virology: Overview. Occurs most commonly in children and presents as a pruritic rash, with macules that rapidly develop into papules and then vesicles

The following conditions are other types of superficial skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin infections that are included in the differential diagnoses of impetigo:

  • Erysipelas Erysipelas Erysipelas is a bacterial infection of the superficial layer of the skin extending to the skin's superficial lymphatic vessels. This infection presents as a raised, well-defined, tender, and bright red rash. Typically on the legs or face, but erysipelas can occur anywhere on the skin. Erysipelas: acute superficial infection of the upper dermis and involving lymphatics. Usually caused by bacterial agents such as group A β-hemolytic streptococcus, it presents as a sharply demarcated skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin lesion with erythema, edema Edema Edema is a condition in which excess serous fluid accumulates in the body cavity or interstitial space of connective tissues. Edema is a symptom observed in several medical conditions. It can be categorized into 2 types, namely, peripheral (in the extremities) and internal (in an organ or body cavity). Edema, and warmth. 
  • Dermatitis: a general term for an edematous skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin rash caused by an allergic reaction or a non-bacterial infection 
  • Cutaneous candidiasis Candidiasis Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis: a superficial infection caused by Candida Candida Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis spp. Usually associated with immunodeficiency
  • Tinea: an infection of the skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin caused by dermatophytes Dermatophytes Tinea infections are a group of diseases caused by fungi infecting keratinized tissue (hair, nails, and skin). These infections are termed dermatomycoses and are caused by the dermatophyte fungi. There are approximately 40 dermatophyte fungi that are part of 3 genera, including Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, and Microsporum. These infections can affect any part of the body but occur most often in warm, moist regions like the groin and the feet. Dermatophytes/Tinea Infections. There are 3 types of dermatophytes Dermatophytes Tinea infections are a group of diseases caused by fungi infecting keratinized tissue (hair, nails, and skin). These infections are termed dermatomycoses and are caused by the dermatophyte fungi. There are approximately 40 dermatophyte fungi that are part of 3 genera, including Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, and Microsporum. These infections can affect any part of the body but occur most often in warm, moist regions like the groin and the feet. Dermatophytes/Tinea Infections: Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, and Microsporum
  • Herpes simplex viral infection: a viral infection that presents as recurring, erythematous vesicles that turn into painful ulcerations, usually around in and around the mouth ( HSV HSV Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a double-stranded DNA virus belonging to the family Herpesviridae. Herpes simplex virus commonly causes recurrent infections involving the skin and mucosal surfaces, including the mouth, lips, eyes, and genitals. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 & 2 type 1 is more common at this site)
  • Folliculitis: a localized inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body's defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation of the hair follicle or sebaceous glands primarily caused by S. aureus. It is characterized by erythema, tender papules, and/or pustules at the site of hair follicles.

References

  1. Baddour LM. Impetigo. (Literature review current through: July 2020). UpToDate Evidence-Based Medicine. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/impetigo?search=impetigo&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~122&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
  2. Emanuel P. Impetigo. (2013). DermNet New Zealand (Supported by and contributed to by New Zealand Dermatologists on behalf of the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated). https://dermnetnz.org/topics/impetigo-pathology/

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