Toxic Shock Syndrome, often times referred to as TSS, is a life threatening disease caused by the Staphylococcal and Streptococcal bacteria. The common symptoms of TSS are flu-like, including fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and a few more symptoms that are more specific to TSS like full body rash, joint swelling, confusion, and skin peeling. It became rampant in the 1980's when super absorbent tampons hit the shelves. However, this is not the only way to contract TSS.


TSS can be transmitted in two different ways, menstrual, and non-menstrual, and is caused by the Staphylococcal and Streptococcal bacteria.


Staphylococcal is responsible for the majority of TSS symptoms that are flu-like.


Streptococcal has superantigens that carry the genes of several different streptococcal forms. Types of infections from this bacteria are formed on the skin, like chicken pox.

Menstrual Transmission

Comes from super absorbent tampons, which, when left in for too long can harbor the bacteria that causes TSS. This is a vehicle transmission, uringenital portal of entry, and the first line of defense against this comes from high pH levels in the walls of the vagina that will try to kill of the bacteria being grown inside the woman.

Non-Menstrual Transmission

This type of transmission comes in many different ways, and every case is different. It has been seen to happen in a variety of different situations such as post surgical infections, influenza associated, and use of a contraceptive diaphragm. First line of defense in these situations is usually the skin, and the portal of entry is breaking the skin surface. Transmission is direct contact.


This is the same for both menstrual and non-menstrual, because once the bacteria has inhabited the body, regardless of transmission, the effects of it are the same. Nuetrophils are the primary killer of the Staphylococcal and Streptococcal bacteria. They are rapidly recruited to sites of infections where they bind to ingest the invading pathogen. The pathogen process triggers an antimicrobial killing mechanism to limit pathogen survival. Interferons prevent other parts of the body from getting infected. This process is what causes the fever and sunburn-like rash.


Toxins bind to helper T-cells, and immune proteins are overproduced. Once histamines are released, patient starts getting flu-like systems and the immune system is sent into overdrive. This is when TSS becomes life-threatening.
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Patients who have TSS must be hospitalized in intensive care for up to a week. Treatments include IVs to fight dehydration, medication to stabilize blood pressure, and gamma globulin injections to suppress inflammation and stabilize the immune system. It is important to either remove the tampon that incubated the bacteria, or drain the pus and blood from the surgical wound depending on where the disease was contracted.


TSS is now very uncommon. For women, it is wise to be very cautious of how long a tampon should be used, and should not be left in overnight. Tampons are now made with less harming chemicals, and people are now more aware of their danger, so TSS is less common. Surgically contracted TSS was common among unclean work environments and carelessness in earlier times, and now with today's methods of surgery, it is highly unlikely to go into toxic shock afterwards. Toxic Shock Syndrome is not a common problem today, but it is still a possibility, and should still be cautioned.
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