Treatment of bullous impetigo and the staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome in infants

Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2004 Jun;2(3):439-46. doi: 10.1586/14787210.2.3.439.


Impetigo is a common, superficial, bacterial infection of the skin characterized by an inflamed and infected epidermis. The rarer variant, bullous impetigo, is characterized by fragile fluid-filled vesicles and flaccid blisters and is invariably caused by pathogenic strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Bullous impetigo is at the mild end of a spectrum of blistering skin diseases caused by a staphylococcal exfoliative toxin that, at the other extreme, is represented by widespread painful blistering and superficial denudation (the staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome). In bullous impetigo, the exfoliative toxins are restricted to the area of infection, and bacteria can be cultured from the blister contents. In staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome the exfoliative toxins are spread hematogenously from a localized source causing widespread epidermal damage at distant sites. Both occur more commonly in children under 5 years of age and particularly in neonates. It is important to swab the skin for bacteriological confirmation and antibiotic sensitivities and, in the case of staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, to identify the primary focus of infection. Topical therapy should constitute either fusidic acid (Fucidin, Leo Pharma Ltd) as a first-line treatment, or mupirocin (Bactroban, GlaxoSmithKline) in proven cases of bacterial resistance. First-line systemic therapy is oral or intravenous flucloxacillin (Floxapen, GlaxoSmithKline). Nasal swabs from the patient and immediate relatives should be performed to identify asymptomatic nasal carriers of Staphylococcus aureus. In the case of outbreaks on wards and in nurseries, healthcare professionals should also be swabbed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carrier State / drug therapy
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Impetigo / complications
  • Impetigo / drug therapy*
  • Impetigo / epidemiology
  • Impetigo / pathology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Prognosis
  • Skin Diseases, Vesiculobullous / complications
  • Skin Diseases, Vesiculobullous / drug therapy*
  • Skin Diseases, Vesiculobullous / epidemiology
  • Skin Diseases, Vesiculobullous / pathology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / complications
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / epidemiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / pathology
  • Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome / complications
  • Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome / pathology


  • Anti-Infective Agents