MRSA (meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus)
Introduction to MRSA (meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus)
MRSA infection usually occurs in those who are already ill and often does not cause symptoms in healthy individuals.
What is MRSA?
MRSA stands for meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. It is known as a ‘superbug’. There are various strains of MRSA that are all resistant to an antibiotic called meticillin. MRSA infection usually occurs in those who are already ill and often does not cause symptoms in healthy individuals. Therefore it occurs mostly commonly in hospital patients. It is spread from person to person usually by direct skin contact. It can also be spread indirectly by touching hospital equipment or bed sheets.
What are the causes for MRSA?
Staphylococcus aureus is bacteria often found in skin. In healthy carriers it is usually harmless. However when it invades the skin it can sometimes cause infection. If it gets in the bloodstream it can cause more serious infection.
What are the symptoms of MRSA?
When the bacteria get into the bloodstream it can travel to internal parts of the body and cause serious infections. This can include: septicaemia (blood poisoning), pneumonia (lung infection), endocarditis (heart valve infection) and osteomyelitis (bone infection).
A blood sample, urine sample or a wound swap can be sent to the laboratory to reveal an MRSA infection.
How is MRSA treated?
MRSA is usually treated with antibiotics. The choice of antibiotic is usually limited as MRSA is resistant to the majority of antibiotics. Most patients will be needed to be treated by antibiotics that go directly into the vein. The course of treatment is usually for several weeks. It is important to prevent the spread of MRSA infection in hospitals by making sure staff adhere to good hygiene measures. This includes washing hands before and after seeing patients and regular cleaning of bedding. Recently, it has been introduced that most people going into hospital are to be screened for MRSA by swabbing different areas of the body. This has been shown to reduce MRSA infection rates in England.