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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare, life-threatening illness triggered by certain bacteria (group A streptococcal and Staphylococcus aureus). In toxic shock syndrome, toxins (poisons) produced by the bacteria cause a severe drop in blood pressure (hypotension) and organ failure. In some patients, these bacteria enter the body through an obvious break in the skin, such as a wound or puncture. Other cases are related to the use of tampons. Sometimes, however, toxic shock develops after a relatively mild injury, such as a bruise or muscle strain, or no cause is identified at all.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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