Staph Infection: Question and Answer
What is MRSA?
MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph," are bacteria
commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Some S. aureus are resistant to the class
of antibiotics that are frequently used to treat staph such as methicillin-and
thus are called methicillin-resistant S. aureus(MRSA).
Who gets MRSA?
S. aureus (staph) including MRSA can be spread among people having close
contact with infected people. MRSA is almost always spread by direct physical
contact and not through the air. Spread may also occur through indirect contact
by touching objects (e.g., towels, sheets, wound dressings, clothes, workout
areas, or sports equipment) contaminated by the infected skin of a person with
staph bacteria or MRSA.
Just as S. aureus can be carried on the skin or in the
nose without causing any disease, MRSA can be carried in this way also. This is known as
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
MRSA infections occur commonly among persons in
hospitals and healthcare facilities. However, MRSA can cause illness in persons
outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities as well. Cases of MRSA infection
in the community have been associated with recent antibiotic use, sharing
contaminated items, having recurrent skin diseases, and living in crowded settings. Clusters of skin
infections caused by MRSA have been described among injecting drug-users;
aboriginals in Canada, New Zealand and Australia; Native Americans
in the United States; incarcerated persons; players of close-contact
sports; men who have sex with men (MSM); and other populations.
Most of the transmission in these settings appeared to be from people with
active MRSA skin infections.
How do I know if I got MRSA from the community or from a healthcare setting?
Persons with MRSA infections that meet all of the following criteria likely
have community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) infections:
- Diagnosis of MRSA was made in the outpatient setting
or by a culture positive for MRSA within 48 hours after admission to the
- The patient has no
medical history of MRSA infection or colonization.
- The patient has no medical
history in the past year of:
- The patient has no
permanent indwelling catheters or medical devices that pass through the skin
into the body.
If my doctor or healthcare provider has told me that I have an
MRSA skin infection, what can I do to prevent others from getting infected?
You can prevent spreading an MRSA infection to those you live with or others
around you by following these steps:
- Keep infections, particularly those that continue to produce pus or to drain material, covered
with clean, dry bandages. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions on
proper care of the wound. Pus from infected wounds can contain MRSA and spread
the bacteria to others.
- Advise your family and other close contacts to wash
their hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially if they change
your bandages or touch the infected wound or potentially infectious materials.
- Avoid sharing personal items (e.g., towels,
washcloth, razor, clothing, or uniforms) that may have had contact with the
infected wound and potentially infectious material. Wash linens and clothes
that become soiled with hot water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a
hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.
- Tell any healthcare providers
who treat you that you have an antibiotic-resistant staph skin infection.
A sample of the infected wound (either a small biopsy of skin or pus taken
with a swab) must be obtained to grow the bacteria in the microbiology
laboratory. Once the staph is
growing, the organism is tested to determine which antibiotics will be effective
for treating the infection. A culture of skin lesions is especially useful in
recurrent or persistent cases of skin infection, in cases of antibiotic failure,
and in cases that present with advanced or aggressive infections.
What is the mortality rate of CA-MRSA?
Last Editorial Review: 8/22/2003
CA-MRSA infections are typically limited to the skin and do not result in
severe disease (such as infection of the bloodstream) or death. However, on rare
occasion, CA-MRSA can cause severe illness even when treated quickly, as in the
cases of four children who died from CA-MRSA (18).
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov).