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Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a mutation of a very common bacterium that is spread easily by direct person-to-person contact. Once limited to large teaching facilities and tertiary care centers, MRSA is now endemic in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and even community facilities.

MRSA has become prevalent with the overuse of antibiotics. Over the years, overuse has given oncesusceptible bacteria the chance to develop defenses against antibiotics. This new capability allows resistant strains to flourish when antibiotics knock out their more sensitive cousins.

Causes

MRSA and other staph can cause infection by getting into the body through broken skin or into the blood stream. People who have health problems such as diabetes or a poor immune system—or who have broken skin due to wounds, recent surgery, or dermatitis—are more likely than others to get a staph infection. MRSA can cause:

  • Skin infections such as boils and impetigo;
  • Infection under the skin (cellulitis);
  • More serious infections of the bone, blood, lungs and other parts of the body.

Symptoms and Signs

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus produces symptoms no different from any other type of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The skin will appear red and inflamed around wound sites. Symptoms in serious cases may include fever, lethargy, and headache. MRSA can cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome, and even death.

Diagnostic tests

MRSA can be cultured from the suspected site with the appropriate culture method. For example, MRSA in a wound infection can be cultured, using a swab technique, as in a culturette. Blood, urine, and sputum cultures reveal sources of MRSA.

Treatment

To eradicate MRSA colonization in the nares, the doctor may order topical mupirocin applied inside the nostrils. Other protocols use a topical agent in combination with an oral antibiotic. Most facilities keep patients in isolation until cultures are negative.

To attack MRSA infection, vancomycin is the drug of choice. A serious possible adverse effect caused mostly by histamine release is itching ranging to anaphylaxis. Some clinicians also add rifampin, but whether rifampin acts synergistically or antagonistically when given with vancomycin is controversial.

Prevention

There is no vaccine to protect you from MRSA. The most important thing you can do is wash your hands before eating, drinking, smoking or applying personal care products, and after using the toilet. Wash your hands well for at least fifteen seconds using warm water and soap, and use a paper towel to dry your hands.

Bacteria can survive on surfaces like railings, faucets and handles for up to seven days. Routine cleaning of these surfaces with regular household cleaners can also help reduce spread of bacteria.

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