What is MRSA?

MRSA is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Abbreviated MRSA.

MRSA are Staphylococci that are resistant to the antibiotic, methicillin, and other commonly used antibiotics such as penicillin and cephalosporins. These germs have a unique gene that causes them to be unaffected by all but the highest concentrations of these antibiotics. Therefore, alternate antibiotics must be used to treat persons infected with MRSA. Vancomycin has been the most effective and reliable drug in these cases, but is used intravenously and is not effective for treatment of MRSA when taken by mouth.

MRSA first cropped up among persons in hospitals and other health facilities, especially among the elderly, the very sick, and those with an open wound (such as a bedsore) or a tube going into their body (such as a urinary catheter or IV catheter).

MRSA has since been found to cause illness in the community outside of hospitals and other health facilities. MRSA in the community is associated with recent antibiotic use, sharing contaminated items, having active skin diseases, and living in crowded settings.

Skin infections caused by MRSA have clustered among injecting drug-users, Native Americans, prison inmates, and athletes in close-contact sports. Community-associated MRSA infections typically cause skin lesions (such as boils), but also can cause severe illness. Some children have died from community-associated MRSA.

The transmission of MRSA is largely from people with active MRSA skin infections. MRSA is almost always spread by direct physical contact, and not through the air. Spread may also occur through indirect contact by touching objects (such as towels, sheets, wound dressings, clothes, workout areas, sports equipment) contaminated by the infected skin of a person with MRSA.

MRSA infections are usually mild superficial infections of the skin that can be treated successfully with proper skin care and antibiotics. MRSA, however, can be difficult to treat and can progress to life-threatening blood or bone infections because there are fewer effective antibiotics available for treatment.

If someone has an MRSA infection, they can help from spreading it by keeping infections, particularly those that continue to produce pus or to drain material, covered with clean, dry bandages; by advising close contacts to wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially if they change the bandages or touch the infected wound or potentially infectious materials; by not sharing personal items (such as towels, washcloth, razor, clothing) that may have had contact with the infected wound; by washing linens and clothes with hot water and laundry detergent and drying them in a hot dryer; and by telling healthcare providers that you have an antibiotic-resistant staph skin infection.

To help prevent the spread of MRSA in a health care setting, wash hands regularly with antimicrobial soap and warm water. When hands are not visibly soiled, alcohol-based hand sanitizer use is effective. Wear gloves when managing wounds. After removing gloves, wash hands with soap and warm water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Carefully dispose of dressings and other materials that come into contact with blood, nasal discharge, urine, or pus from patients infected with MRSA. Clean surfaces in patient rooms with commercial disinfectant or a 1:100 solution of diluted bleach (1 tablespoon bleach in 1 quart of water). Launder any linens that come into patient contact in hot water (>160°F) and bleach. The heat of commercial dryers improves bacterial killing.