Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
What is MRSA?
MRSA is a potentially dangerous type of bacteria; it is a strain of Staphylococcus aureus which is resistant to methicillin and a number of other widely used antibiotics.
Staphylococcus aureus is an organism that colonises the skin, particularly around skin folds, including the nose, hairline, under arms and navel. It commonly survives in these areas without causing infection; however, if it invades the skin and deeper tissues it multiplies causing infection. Because of its resistance to treatment MRSA infections can be particularly difficult to treat compared to other bacterial infections.
MRSA can infect different parts of the body, and symptoms vary according to the place that is infected. Skin infections usually start as a bump on the skin that may be red, warm, swollen, or painful. Common symptoms of an infection are:
- Swelling of the infected area
- Discharge (Puss)
If an infection penetrates deeper into the body or bloodstream, it may cause a more serious infection. Symptoms of this may include:
- High fever
- Generally feeling unwell
- Muscle aches and pains
- Pain, swelling and tenderness in the affected body part
Illnesses that may be caused by invasive infections include urinary tract infections (UTIs), sepsis (blood poisoning), pneumonia and endocarditis (infection of the heart valves).
How is it spread?
MRSA bacteria are usually spread through skin-to-skin contact, by touching someone who has an active infection or the bacteria living naturally on their skin.
MRSA can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects; this includes towels, sheets, clothes, or household surfaces.
People in hospital are the most at risk group for contracting MRSA, this is due to the fact:
- There are many people living and working together, which increases the opportunity for the bacteria to spread
- Patients tend to be weaker, sicker and older than the general population, making them vulnerable to infection.
- There is usually an entry point for the bacteria to get into people’s bodies, for example a surgical wound or urinary catheter.
It is possible to become infected with MRSA outside the hospital setting, although this is much less common.
Although MRSA infections are more difficult to treat than other bacterial infections, they are still treatable as the bacteria are not resistant to all antibiotics.
Treatment will depend on the extent of the infection, but in most cases it requires taking antibiotics that MRSA has not yet developed resistance to. These may be given as creams, tablets or injections.
People who are admitted to hospital will have MRSA screening on admission, however, it is also possible to reduce the risk of transmission by:
- Washing your hands frequently; particularly after using the toilet, and before eating
- Following advice surrounding wound care or devices that may lead to infection (such as urinary catheters)
- Reporting any unclean toilet or bathroom facilities to staff – don’t be afraid highlight hygiene concerns