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Any of the spherical bacteria that make up the genus Staphylococcus. The best-known species are present in great numbers on the mucous membranes and skin of all humans and other warm-blooded animals. The cells characteristically group together in grapelike clusters. Staphylococci are gram-positive (seegram stain) and stationary and do not require oxygen. Of significance to humans is the species S. aureus, an important agent of wound infections, boils, and other human skin infections, and one of the most common causes of food poisoning. It also causes udder inflammation in domestic animals and breast infections in women. The largest cause of hospital infections (accounting for almost 15%), staph is often difficult to treat because of its increasing resistance to antibiotics.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on staphylococcus, visit Britannica.com.