Share this page

Health Library

Methicillin-Resistant Staph Infection (MRSA; Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection; Infection, Methicillin-Resistant; Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Community-Acquired MRSA; CA-MRSA; Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Nosocomial MRSA; Healthcare-Associated MRSA; HA-MRSA)
Definition

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a potentially serious infection that resists antibiotics. MRSA can affect the skin, blood, bones, or lungs. A person can either be infected or colonized with MRSA.

There are two types of MRSA infections:

  • Community-acquired—getting the infection outside of a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or clinic
  • Nosocomial—getting the infection while inside a healthcare setting

MRSA can spread several ways:

  • Contaminated surfaces
  • Person-to-person
  • From one area of the body to another
Causes

MRSA is caused by specific bacteria that resist antibiotics. Over time, bacteria adapt to repeated exposure to antibiotics, building up a resistance to them.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of developing MRSA include:

  • Community-acquired:
    • Impaired immunity
    • Sharing crowded spaces such as dormitories or locker rooms
    • Using IV drugs
    • Having a serious illness
    • Age: Child
    • Being an athlete, especially in sports using direct contact such as wrestling and football
    • Being a prisoner
    • Being a member of the military
    • Exposure to animals such as being a pet owner, veterinarian, or pig farmer
    • Using antibiotics
    • Having a chronic skin disorder
    • Having a wound
    • Being infected with MRSA in the past
  • Nosocomial:
    • Exposure to hospital or clinical settings
    • Living in a long-term care center
    • Impaired immunity
    • Advanced age
    • Sex: male
    • Using antibiotics
    • Having a wound
Symptoms

MRSA may not cause any symptoms in people who are colonized, but not infected, with the bacteria. In those that have symptoms, MRSA may cause:

  • A rash that may have discharge
  • An area of the skin that is swollen and red
  • Blisters on the skin

Infected Hair Follicle—Folliculitis

Inflammed hair follicle

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Skin biopsy
  • Wound cultures
Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Medications

Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria. Only a few antibiotics are available that can treat MRSA.

Incision and Drainage of an Abscess

Your doctor may open the abscess and allow the fluid to drain. Do not attempt to do this on your own.

Cleansing of the Skin

Do the following to treat the infection and to keep it from spreading:

  1. Wash your skin with an antibacterial cleanser.
  2. Cover your skin with a sterile dressing.
Decolonization

Decolonization is a process to help rid your body of the bacteria so you do not reinfect yourself. This process may involve using nasal ointments, washing with special soap, and taking medications, including antibiotics. Decolonization is only recommended in certain cases.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting MRSA:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Keep cuts and wounds clean and covered until healed.
  • Avoid contact with other people’s wounds and materials contaminated by wounds.
  • If you are hospitalized, visitors and healthcare workers may be required to wear special clothing and gloves. This will help prevent spreading the infection to others.
  • Clean surfaces to eliminate bacteria.
  • If advised by your doctor, use nasal ointments, wash with special soap, and take medications to prevent the bacteria from infecting you again.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
http://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References:

Barton M, Hawkes M, et al. Guidelines for the prevention and management of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: A perspective for Canadian health care practitioners. Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol. 2006;17(Suppl C):4C.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 7, 2014. Accessed August 18, 2014.

MRSA decolonization. Aurora BayCare Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.aurorahealthcare.org/FYWB_pdfs/baycare/x34012bc.pdf . Accessed August 18, 2014.

Seasonal flu and staph infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flustaph.htm. Updated February 8, 2011. Accessed August 18, 2014.

MRSA. Nemours Foundation Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/mrsa.html. Updated June 2014. Accessed August 18, 2014.



Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Baptist Flame

Baptist Health Systems

Find A Doctor

Services

Locations

Baptist Medical Clinic

Patients & Visitors

Learn

Contact Us

Physician Tools

Careers at Baptist

Employee Links

Online Services

At Baptist Health Systems

At Baptist Medical Center

close ×