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What is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of bacteria generally found on the surface of your skin or around the nose that has developed resistance to regularly used antibiotic medications.

Types of MRSA Infections

MRSA infections can be classified as:

  • Hospital-Acquired MRSA Infections: These infections occur during surgeries, placement of intravenous lines, and other invasive procedures or contact with infected patients or unclean surfaces in hospitals, clinics, dialysis centers, and nursing homes.
  • Community-Acquired MRSA Infections: These infections occur in the wider community and are often spread through skin contact among people living and working in crowded and unsanitary conditions.

Symptoms of MRSA Infection

The MRSA infection generally manifests as painful bumps or boils on the skin that are warm, filled with pus, and accompanied by fever. The infection may spread to underlying tissues including bones and joints, and enter the bloodstream causing sepsis, problems with the heart valves, pneumonia, and other life-threatening conditions.

Causes of MRSA Infection

MRSA infections are caused due to unnecessary or overuse of antibiotics that cause the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria exposed to these antibiotics to develop resistance to them. Over many years, with continued indiscriminate antibiotic use, the bacteria become resistant to most types of antibiotics resulting in MRSA infections that are difficult to treat.

Diagnosis of MRSA Infections

MRSA skin infections are often diagnosed based on clinical signs and symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis your doctor may order laboratory tests on nasal secretions, blood or tissue samples to detect signs of MRSA bacteria.

Treatment of MRSA Infections

To treat MRSA infection your doctor may prescribe newer antibiotics that might still be effective against the drug-resistant bacteria. If the infection has spread to the bloodstream, intravenous antibiotics may need to be administered. For small skin boils caused by MRSA bacteria, your doctor may choose to incise and drain the lesion rather than prescribe antibiotics. Of note, when antibiotics are prescribed, you must complete the entire antibiotic course. Stopping the antibiotic treatment course as soon as symptoms have resolved could result in the survival of some strains of the bacteria that might develop resistance to the treatment.

Preventing MRSA Infections

MRSA infections can be prevented by taking the following precautions:

  • Using antibiotics only as recommended by your doctor
  • Observing proper hand and body hygiene
  • Keeping wounds clean and appropriately covered until healed
  • Not sharing personal items
  • Showering after sports and athletic activity
  • Ensuring hospital equipment and room surfaces are sanitized