toxic shock syndrome (TSS). acute, sometimes fatal, disease characterized by high fever, nausea, diarrhea, lethargy, blotchy rash, and sudden drop in blood pressure. It is caused by Staphylococcus aureus, an exotoxin-producing bacteria (see toxin); group A streptococcus cause a similar disease, called streptococcal toxic shock syndrome or toxic shock-like syndrome. Toxic shock was initially identified among menstruating women using high-absorbency tampons that contained synthetic materials, now no longer used, that bound and removed magnesium from the surrounding bodily environment. The resulting lower magnesium levels encouraged bacterial exotoxin production. Slightly more than half of all cases now occur in menstruating women; nonmenstruating women, men, and children may also develop TSS, as a result of infection after surgery and other causes. Treatment mainly involves supportive measures, such as intravenous fluids and, if necessary, kidney dialysis, but may include antibiotics and immunoglobulin.
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