Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus is a bacterial infection resistant to antibiotic methicillin. Staphylococcus aureus, sometimes referred to simply as "staph," or "staph A" is a common bacterium found on the skin of healthy people. If staph gets into the body it can cause a minor infection such as boils or pimples or serious infections such as pneumonia or blood infections.
One antibiotic commonly used to treat staph infections is methicillin. While methicillin is very effective in treating most staph infections, some staph bacteria have developed a resistance to methicillin and can no longer be killed by this antibiotic. The resistant bacteria are called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.
MRSA usually infects hospital patients who are elderly or very ill. You may be at more risk if you have had frequent, long-term, or intensive use of antibiotics. Intravenous drug users and persons with long-term illnesses or who are immuno-suppressed are also at increased risk.
The infection can develop in an open wound such as a bedsore or when there is a tube such as a urinary catheter that enters the body. MRSA rarely infects healthy people.
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.
Yes. While MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics and can be difficult to treat there are a few antibiotics that can cure MRSA infections. Patients that are only colonized with MRSA usually do not require treatment.
Healthy persons can carry the MRSA bacteria in their nose or on their skin for weeks or even years. Healthy people can sometimes effectively clear MRSA from their bodies even in the absence of any kind of treatment, however, unless completely cleared the bacteria can return, especially if the individual undergoes antibiotic therapy.
MRSA can be present in the nose, on the skin, or in the blood or urine. MRSA can spread among other patients who are usually very ill with weakened immune systems that cannot fight off the infection.
MRSA is usually spread through physical contact--not through the air. It is usually spread in hospitals on people's hands. Healthcare workers hands may become contaminated by contact with patients, or surfaces in the workplace, and medical devices that are contaminated with body fluids containing MRSA.
The prevention of MRSA infections is based upon standard infection control precautions including:
Wash hands immediately after gloves are removed, between patient contacts and between tasks and procedures.
Wear gloves when touching blood, body fluids and contaminated items. Remove gloves between patient contacts and wash hands immediately.
Wear a mask and face shield during procedures that are likely to generate splashes or droplets of blood and body fluids.
Wear a gown during procedures that are likely to generate splashes or droplets of blood and body fluids.
Appropriate cleaning, disinfection and sterilization of patient care equipment are important in limiting the transmission of organisms.
Handle, transport, and process used linen soiled with blood or body fluids in a manner that prevents skin exposure, contamination of clothing and transfer of microorganisms to other patients.
For further information refer to Infection Control Guidelines: Hand Washing, Cleaning, Disinfection and Sterilization in Health Care, Health Canada.
If the MRSA is judged by the hospital's infection control program to be of special clinical significance the patient is placed in a private room (isolation).
For further information refer to Routine Practices and Additional Precautions for Preventing the Transmission of Infection in Health Care - Revision of Isolation and Precaution Techniques, Health Canada.
Healthy people, including children are at very low risk of contracting MRSA. Casual contact such as hugging is okay, however, hands should be washed before leaving the patient's hospital room or home. Persons should use gloves, however, before handling any body fluids of infected persons, and remove the gloves and wash the hands before leaving the infected person's room or home. Before an infected person leaves the hospital ask the nurse or doctor what precautions they recommend be taken at home. In general, follow good hygiene practices, as previously described.
Document last updated on September 19, 2005