Weird Skin Stuff

July 2009


Bacterial skin infections

An observational study

Volume 38, No.7, July 2009 Pages 547-551

Geoffrey Spurling

Deborah A Askew

David King

Geoffrey K Mitchell


We aimed to determine the feasibility of measuring resolution rates of bacterial skin infections in general practice.


Fifteen general practitioners recruited patients from March 2005 to October 2007 and collected clinical and sociodemographic data at baseline. Patients were followed up at 2 and 6 weeks to assess lesion resolution.


Of 93 recruited participants, 60 (65%) were followed up at 2 and 6 weeks: 50% (30) had boils, 37% (22) had impetigo, 83% (50) were prescribed antibiotics, and active follow up was suggested for 47% (28). Thirty percent (18) and 15% (9) of participants had nonhealed lesions at 2 and 6 weeks respectively. No associations between nonhealing and any modifiable factors investigated were identified. However, indigenous patients were more likely to have nonhealed lesions at 2 weeks and new lesions at 6 weeks.


Clinicians need to be aware that nonhealing is not infrequent, particularly in indigenous people.

Bacterial skin infections such as impetigo and boils are common, contagious, often painful, and have the potential to recur. They are caused by Staphylococcus aureus and occasionally by Streptococcus pyogenes, and are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, fomite contact or contact with nasal carriers.1 In the United Kingdom, incidence of skin infections in children in 2005 was approximately 75 per 100 000.2 Skin infection rates are likely to be higher in warmer climates. The only Australian data we found were for one Northern Territory Aboriginal Medical Service (Danila Dilba), which recorded 7.5 per 100 consultations for localised skin infections.3

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