What is MRSA?

MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, is a bacterial infection which is becoming more frequent worldwide, largely due to the overuse of antibiotics.  What makes it problematic is that many common and widely prescribed antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and cephalexin, do not successfully treat it.  Incidence is increasing both in hospitals and health care facilities, as well as in the community at large. It is spread by direct contact.

MRSA infection typically appears as an area of redness or a boil, and can typically enter the skin through a scratch or scrape.  It is treated with antibiotics such as sulfa, clindamycin or doxycycline, and boils are typically drained.  Diagnosis, unfortunately, is not made visually, but through the use of a culture swab, most often of the wound.  If the infection is not treated, a deeper pus-pocket collection known as an abscess can form.

Patients that have a weaker immune system, such as those on chemotherapy, have uncontrolled diabetes, are on long term steroid treatment or are on medication to prevent organ transplant or rheumatoid arthritis progression, have a higher risk of MRSA progression and complications.  Crowded environments, such as schools, health care facilities, daycare facilities, jails and military facilities see an increased incidence.  Infection risk can be reduced by frequent hand washing, covering all cuts and scrapes until healed, avoiding contact with other people’s wounds or bandages, not sharing personal items such as razors, deodorant or towels, using a barrier such as a towel when exposed to a potentially contaminated surface (like a sauna bench) and asking all health care workers to wash their hands prior to examining you.

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