MRSA: Avoiding A Super Infection
What is MRSA
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, which is a common bacterium that colonizes on the skin of and inside the nostril. In fact, it estimated that 30% of the general population carries MRSA and is totally unaware they have it.
MRSA was described as being a largely nosocomial pathogen in 1961 but the first epidemic strain of MRSA (CA-MRSA) wasn’t found until the 1990’s in Australia. It quickly spread globally and developed resistance to antibiotics almost as soon as they were introduced. MRSA was first treated with penicillin then methicillin, becoming resistant to both. It is resistant to other beta-lactam antibiotics such as oxacillin and amoxicillin. The resistance to these drugs makes MRSA a challenge to treat and the fear of MRSA becoming resistant to all antibiotics is of real concern.
Who is most at risk of contracting MRSA?
Most healthy people have strong immune systems and can fight off MRSA but people who have other illness or who have had surgery can develop serious problems. MRSA has been known to cause septic wounds, boils, abscesses, impetigo, heart valve problems and toxic shock syndrome and even death.
MRSA enters the body through a cut or wound. Depending on the patients’ health and the immediacy of treatment will determine how deadly it can become. MRSA starts out small, resembling a bump, pimple, blister, boil or spider bite but can become deeper and abscess as it enters the body. It can eat its way through the soft tissue, through bone and into organs if not aggressively treated. In approximately 7000 patients with CA-MRSA infections, 90% only had skin and soft tissue infections. In 2%-4% of the remainder had bone, joint, pulmonary, urinary or other infections. Even though most of these infections were predominantly of the skin and soft tissue, this MRSA strain can cause severe infections that is life threatening.
Certain groups of people are at higher risk of contracting a MRSA infection. People in hospitals are prime candidates for MRSA infections since they’re immune system may already be low due to illness. Anyone having any type of surgery or who has an open wound should take precaution. Wounds should be cleaned with antiseptic and covered with a bandage.
People who have close interpersonal contact with other are generally most at risk. This would include correctional facilities, the military, athletes and children in day care. Anyone who is involved in close contact sports or uses gym equipment should also be advised of the threat of MRSA. A new report released by Moinlycke Health Care, found that high school and college wrestlers have a 16% higher chance of developing a MRSA infection.
Staph infections such as MRSA can show up anyplace on your body but the more common areas are areas of irritation and clothing friction. Sweaty areas, like armpits, buttocks, neck, face groin and feet are common areas for MRSA to show up. Infections from cellulitis are common on the arms, hands, lower legs and face should be carefully inspected.
Reasons why MRSA is a super bug
The reasons MRSA has become a super bug include the overuse of antibiotics, genetic selection and patients not finishing prescribed antibiotics. We all know people who go to the doctor and want antibiotics for as much as a sniffle. This has become the problem with a society who wants a quick fix, even for health issues where antibiotics are not effective. The result is antibiotics being over prescribed and bacterium becoming resistant. Likewise, when antibiotics are prescribed and the patients’ starts feeling better, many times the patient discontinues taking the medicine. The antibiotic may have killed off the weak bacteria but a few of the strong will survive and become resistant to that particular antibiotic. This is why it is important to finish the full prescription. Bacteria, like other life forms, are constantly evolving and when one does not die from an antibiotic treatment its offspring then becomes resistant. Resistant strains change their genes to become more and more resistant to other antibiotics. Although some strains of MRSA are now resistant to all antibiotics many strains are not resistant to all antibiotics.
What to do if you think you might have a MRSA infection
An infection that does not go away within a few days or begins to spread could be MRSA. If you have fever, pain, chills you should see a doctor. If you suspect you might have a MRSA infection you need to get a swab of the infected wound. It may be necessary to get a sample of blood or urine as well. Bacteria in the sample will take time to grow in the laboratory to be identified. The results can take a few days, so the sooner MRSA can be identified, the sooner you can begin treatment. If the results comes back to be MRSA and your overall health is good you will probably be treated with the antibiotic cream, murpirocin. A person with a weakened immune system will most likely be treated with vancomycin or teicoplanin injections or through an intravenous drip in the hospital. The hospital will take special precautions such as providing a private room. The staff will wear gowns and gloves and regularly wipe down room furniture with alcohol to prevent spreading MRSA to others.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, to lower the risk for transmission you should beware of the "4 Cs".
*Contact: skin to skin
*Contaminated items such as towels and surfaces
*Cleanliness (lack of)
MRSA is a super bug but by being aware of your surroundings and risks you can avoid some of the risks of infection. As always, be aware of new, suspicious wounds and wash your hands frequently after touching things like shopping carts, light switches, public computers and telephones. MRSA is frightening because of its resistance to antibiotics and that makes it all the more important to know the facts and prevent the spread of this sometimes-deadly infection.