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What is MRSA Pneumonia?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated May 17, 2024
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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection that settles in an individual’s lungs is known as MRSA pneumonia. The rapid development of this form of staph infection can pose a serious threat to one’s life requiring prompt and appropriate medical attention. Treatment for this form of MRSA infection often necessitates hospitalization and the administration of aggressive antibiotic medications, fluids, and supplemental oxygen. It is essential that all medications are taken through to the final dose to prevent reinfection. Of the many presentations of MRSA infection, MRSA pneumonia possesses a high mortality rate.

Exposure to MRSA infection may occur either in the community or an institutional setting, such as a hospital or clinic. Due to the ubiquitous nature of the bacterial pathogen, MRSA is most commonly transmitted through a dermal cut or laceration. Healthy individuals exposed to this form of staph bacteria may experience no signs or symptoms whatsoever, while others may immediately begin to develop signs of infection. It has been suggested that the development of MRSA infection often rests with the overuse of antibiotic medications for viral-based illnesses, which leave some individuals vulnerable to staph bacteria and illness.

Since the bacteria enters the body through a dermal abrasion, most infections manifest as a skin irritation. It is important to note that once staph bacteria enter an individual’s system, it may settle in any part of the body. When the bacteria settle in the lungs, it is known as MRSA pneumonia and it poses a serious threat to the overall health of the individual. More serious manifestations of the infection generally present in those with compromised or weakened immunity due to the presence of a chronic condition, recent infection, or medical procedure.

Requiring hospitalization, staph-based pneumonia is generally diagnosed in the same manner as other forms of MRSA infection. A tissue or secretion sample is obtained, such as urinalysis, blood or sputum culture, and sent for laboratory analysis. While awaiting test results, which usually takes up to 48 hours, the individual is generally placed on an aggressive antibiotic regimen and fluids are administered to stabilize his or her condition.

Individuals with this type of pneumonia often develop the same tell-tale signs and symptoms associated with MRSA infection, in addition to those associated with a pneumonic presentation. During the initial stages of infection, symptomatic individuals may develop malaise, achiness, and headache. As the infection progresses, some may experience pronounced fatigue, fever and chills. Once the bacteria settle in the lungs, individuals will often develop shortness of breath and chest pain.

After a diagnosis of MRSA pneumonia has been confirmed, aggressive treatment is usually administered to rid the body of infection and prevent the development of complications. A complete regimen of aggressive antibiotic medication is generally given to rid the body of infection and prevent recurrent illness. Intravenous (IV) fluids may be administered to prevent dehydration and supplemental oxygen may also be given to ease the individual’s breathing. Depending on his or her level of discomfort, a mild analgesic may be administered to help alleviate chest pain.

Prognosis associated with MRSA pneumonia is entirely dependent on the severity of the condition and timeliness of treatment. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus-induced pneumonia carries a significantly high mortality rate; therefore, prompt and appropriate treatment is essential to a good prognosis. Complications associated with MRSA infection may include toxic shock syndrome, organ failure, and the spread of infection to other parts of the body, including blood poisoning, or sepsis, and cellulitis.

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