Diseases & Conditions
What is MRSA?
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. Treatment of MRSA is challenging as it is resistant to a number of widely used antibiotics. MRSA is usually spread by direct contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands, usually from a hospital or other health care settings.1
What causes MRSA?
Staphylococcal bacteria are relatively common. About 1 in 3 people carry these bacteria on their skin, usually inside their nose and on the surface of their armpits, groin and buttocks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 2% of the population chronically carries MRSA.2 It is usually harmless and not a cause for worry for most healthy people. However, it can cause problems if it is able to enter the body or it infects someone having weak health. Inappropriate use of antibiotics has contributed to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA.3
How does one get MRSA infection?
Most MRSA infections occur in people who have been in hospitals or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers as they have a weak immune system. This is known as health care-associated MRSA which is typically associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints.
When MRSA infection has occurred in the wider community (among healthy people), it is called community-associated MRSA. It is spread by skin-to-skin contact. At-risk populations include groups such as athletes, child care workers and people who live in crowded conditions.3
Though most MRSA infections are not serious, some can be life-threatening.
What are the symptoms of MRSA?
The symptoms of an MRSA infection will depend on what part of the body is infected:2
How is MRSA diagnosed?
MRSA is diagnosed by obtaining samples of secretions from skin infections, nasal secretions, urine or blood samples. These samples are then cultured (placed on a dish of nutrients that allow bacterial growth) to confirm the presence of MRSA. Since culture technique takes about 48 hours for the bacteria to grow, newer tests that can detect staph DNA in a matter of hours are now becoming more widely available.4
How is MRSA treated?
If a patient has MRSA infection, treatment will depend on the severity of the case. Treatments may include:5
How can MRSA be prevented?
Simple measures should be taken to stop the spread of MRSA and avoid infection:6