What does this bacterium look like?
This genus of bacteria takes the form of small globules that often grow together in the shape of a bunch of grapes. Staphylococcus therefore literally means bunch of grapes in Greek. Staphylococci are between 0.5 and 10 micrometers in size, depending on the species, which is small when you know that 1,000 micrometers fit into one millimeter.
What does science already know about this bacterium?
Most Staphylococcus are harmless and cannot cause disease. Yet the most well-known variant of this species does cause problems: Staphylococcus aureus. You may know this bacterium as a cause of food poisoning or tampon disease (toxic shock syndrome), and it is also better known as the hospital bacterium (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA for short).
What is this bacterium doing in my mouth?
Staphylococcus is the most common genus of bacteria on the skin and consists of about 40 different species. They grow on dry, moist and oily parts of your skin (such as the forearm, groin and back, respectively, as well as on your feet). Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylocoocus warneri and Staphylococcus hominis are examples of the wide range of Staphylococcus found on healthy skin. They can even make antimicrobials that can stop the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, better known as the hospital bacterium, and other unfavorable bacteria. But sometimes they can become so active — usually harmlessly — on the skin that they cause unpleasant odors. If you suffer from stinky feet, for example, it may be caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis making a certain substance (isovalerin) that doesn’t smell so good. Another Staphylococcus species, Staphylococcus hominis, can cause your armpits to smell like rotten onions or meat.
Does this bacterium occur elsewhere?
Staphylococcus is found in humans mainly on the skin and other parts of the body such as the nose, but this bacterium is also present in animals. In addition, these bacteria have already been found in very diverse environments, such as in nectar, in soil and in sea sponges.