Environmental Isolate Case Files: Staphylococcus epidermidis

by | Clinical, Pharmaceutical | 3 comments

Publish Date: January 28, 2016

Staphylococcus epidermidis colonizes moist body surfaces such as the axillae, nares and toe webs. Normally a harmless species, S. epidermidis can cause clinical disease under the right circumstances. Predisposing factors include immunosuppression and the presence of a medical device such as a catheter. Because the organism is a human skin commensal, it is often seen where humans have been. S. epidermidis has been isolated from used cosmetics and on agar plates collected during environmental monitoring.


S. epidermidis consists of Gram-positive cocci that usually occur in pairs or tetrads. Since the species is coagulase negative, it belongs to a group of microorganisms called CoNS (Coagulase Negative Staphylococcus).

Conditions for Growth: 

S. epidermidis is facultatively anaerobic and has a temperature range for growth from 15° to 45°C. However, the species grows best at 30° to 37°C in aerobic conditions.


Resides on the skin, mucosa, and nares of humans. Occasionally found on the skin of other mammals (often those mammals living close to humans).


S. epidermidis is an opportunistic pathogen and is a frequent cause of nosocomial infections. It is involved with urinary tract and wound infections as well as infections of indwelling medical devices such as catheters, prosthetic vascular grafts, prosthetic joints, and cardiac devices. Factors that increase the possibility of illness are immunosuppression, antibiotic resistance genes, the presence of a medical device, and the capability of some strains to form biofilms on medical devices. The biofilm helps protect the cells inside it from antibiotics and the host’s immune response.

Contamination Potential:

S. epidermidis can be introduced during insertion of a medical device. It has been found in cosmetic products that have been used by the consumer. S. epidermidis has been isolated during routine environmental monitoring and has caused sterility failures during testing of sterile pharmaceutical products.


Staphylococcaceae, Genus: Staphylococcus



Brannan DK, Dille JC. (1990) Type of closure prevents microbial contamination of cosmetics during consumer use. Appl Environ Microbiol. 56: 1476–1479

Campana, R. et al. (2006) Microbiological study of cosmetic products during their use by consumers: health risk and efficacy of preservative systems. Lett Appl Microbiol. Sep;43(3):301-6.

FDA. (2013) MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/PublicHealthNotifications http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/PublicHealthNotifications

Lundov, M. D.  et al. (2011) Creams Used by Hand Eczema Patients are often Contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus Acta Dermato Vernerologica.

Otto, M.  (2009) Staphylococcus epidermidis – the “accidental” pathogen. Nat Rev Microbiolo. Aug: 7(8): 555-567.

Schleifer, K.H., Bell, J. (2009) Family VIII fam. nov. Genus I. Staphylococcus In Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 392-421). New York: Springer.

Written by Laurie Kundrat

Laurie Kundrat, MT (ASCP), is a former Microbiologics employee and regular contributing author to the Microbiologics Blog. She has over 30 years of experience as a microbiologist and a clinical technologist. During her career at Microbiologics, Laurie was an active member of the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) and served as a member of the Microbiology Committee. She graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a degree in biology. She also earned a medical technology degree from Fairview General Hospital. Laurie has grown to love all types of bacteria. She has a passion for working with customers and helping them use Microbiologics products successfully.

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  1. Mayte

    As a microbiologist working in the cosmetics quality control. S. epidermis sometimes can be a fastidious organism that can show up in a variety of places.

  2. T Dowding

    Can I use this image to deletion a poster around for my uni course with affecting copy rights .

    • Microbiologics

      Hello – this image was purchased and is subject to copyright restrictions. There is an image available on the CDC Public Health Image Library you can use: https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=18135. CDC asks that you credit the content provider when you use the image (see the Copyright Restrictions section).


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