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Bacterial toxic-shock syndrome

Synonym(s) Bacterial TSS
Prevalence 1-9 / 100 000
Inheritance Not applicable
Age of onset All ages
  • A48.3
MeSH -
MedDRA -


Disease definition

Bacterial toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a potentially fatal, acute disease characterized by a sudden onset of high fever along with nausea, myalgia, vomiting and multisystem organ involvement, potentially leading to shock and death. TSS is mediated by superantigenic toxins, usually caused by an infection with Staphylococcus aureus in staphylococcal TSS (see this term) or Streptococcus pyogenes in streptococcal TSS (see this term).


The worldwide prevalence is estimated at 1/30, 000.

Clinical description

The disease affects mainly young adult women with no previous medical conditions. However, non-menstrual TSS, which can also be observed in men and children, represents up to 50% of Staphylococcal TSS cases. Onset is sudden and includes high fever (>38.9°C), nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, myalgia, abdominal pain and sore throat. Staphylococcal TSS almost always exhibits an erythematous rash and skin peeling as one of its manifestations, whereas it is very rarely seen in streptococcal TSS, which can show signs of soft tissue infection. Serious manifestations include confusion, shock, renal and myocardial dysfunction, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS; see this term) and coma.


Staphylococcal TSS is due to an infection with Staphylococcus aureus and streptococcal TSS is due to an infection with Streptococcus pyogenes, or rarely, group C or G Streptococcus. Superantigens produced by both bacteria are responsible for the massive and sudden immune reaction seen in TSS. Both forms have been associated with recent traumas (surgery or childbirth) and viral infections, while staphylococcal TSS has also been associated with high absorbency tampon use.

Expert reviewer(s)

  • Claude-Alexandre GUSTAVE
  • Pr Gerard LINA
  • Dr Anne TRISTAN

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