What is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) refers to a number of bacteria strains that resist treatment from many antibiotics. Over time, these strains evolved from common staph bacteria that most people come in contact with regularly, due principally to overuse of antibiotic therapy. The majority of people have staph bacteria on their skin and in places like their nasal cavities at all times and it usually is not problematic. When regular staph increase to the level where it creates an infection, it can be treated simply with numerous antibiotics, but the strains that are methicillin-resistant have become used to many forms of antibiotics and can easily fight them. This makes MRSA much more difficult to kill and particularly creates concern in hospital settings or when treating those with immunosuppression.

The places where methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus tend to show up the most is in hospital or convalescent care facilities. Hospitals, by nature, are more likely to have higher levels of bacteria, and people who are ill or have any form of catheters, IVs, surgical wounds, and et cetera are more likely to experience MRSA colonization of an area. Wound infection is of particular concern because people with surgical wounds are recovering and have less resistance to fight bacteria. Worse yet, is if MRSA invades the lungs, creating extremely problematic cases of pneumonia.


There are antibiotics that can fight a methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection, and if a hospitalized patient has an infection, it will usually be tested for MRSA so that the appropriate antibiotic treatment can be given. For small wounds, an ointment containing certain antibiotics may work, but for larger areas of infection or pneumonia, either oral or infused antibiotics may be necessary. Concern exists that since MRSA strains have already evolved to fight many antibiotics, they might eventually evolve to fight most or all of them, and then it would be difficult to know how to proceed in treating this condition. Moreover, some of the antibiotics used now have a much higher burden of side effects.

People can also contract methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection in their community, and there is concern about growing levels of local infections taking place outside of hospitals. Any wound that appears infected is reason to get medical care. Signs of infection could include pus, a sense of warmth, a wound that won’t heal, red streaks emerging from the wound, fever, and other flulike symptoms such as swollen glands, fatigue or achiness.

Those suspecting methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus should be exceptionally careful. MRSA can spread by touch to other people, and any suspicious wound should be covered completely to avoid contaminating others. It’s important to fully wash the hands with hot water and soap and possibly to finish with an alcohol handwash to prevent spreading this infection. Since MRSA can worsen quickly, medical attention for infected wounds should be sought immediately.



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