What is MRSA?
MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a kind of bacterial strain, that is resistant to antibiotics like penicillins and cephalosporins which are commonly used to treat staph infections.
Causes of MRSA
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is commonly caused due to infections in hospitals. When the bacteria enter the body of individuals who had a surgery or have been hospitalized with physical wounds like burns are susceptible to it. Most often, many people catch the infection in the hospital, and can carry it asymptomatically for as long as one year.
Most infections are generally localized and skin related. However some of them can affect major organs and result in severe complications. The nostrils are the place where the bacteria are commonly found.
There is an increased chance of infection in closed rooms with low ventilation. Gym lockers and workout rooms also harbor the infection and hence incidence is higher among people who frequent these places.
Children, elderly and those with compromised immune system catch the infection easily. Hence a weakened immune system, combined with unhygienic lifestyle can be a cause.
Diagnosis of MRSA
Confirmatory diagnosis of MRSA is done by laboratory testing. The swabs are taken generally from the nostrils and cultured in the laboratory. Since the testing process takes long, during which the infection can lead to possibly fatal complications, treatment is started before confirmatory diagnosis, based on the physician’s evaluation.
The tests that are done in order to confirm an infection are –
- Blood culture
- Urine culture
- Sputum culture
- Skin culture or drainage culture from infected site
Medications for MRSA
Medication for MRSA infections includes sulfa drugs, tetracyclines and clindamycin. Vancomycin and teicoplanin are commonly used. Vancomycin is administered intravenously. This can cause some inconvenience.
Other medications used are
- Linezolid (Zyvox)
The complete course of antibiotic treatment must be taken in order to get rid of the infection. After the course, evaluation of the infection is done to determine any residual infection, which can be dormant and asymptomatic.
Prevention of MRSA
MRSA and other bacterial infection can be effectively prevented with sanitization and hygienic practices in hospitals and health care facilities. This includes surface sanitization with alcohol and conducting screening programs. Screening programs reduces the chances of clubbing infected individuals with other healthy people. It is also important to be hygienic. Hand washing is the first step. Infected individuals should decolonize themselves as per their doctor’s instructions with chlorhexidine or other antiseptic. Infected individuals should avoid contact with others until the infection has been contained.
The use of some antibiotics like Glycopeptides, cephalosporins and in particular, quinolones are associated with an increased risk. Therefore, reducing their use can help prevent an infection.
Risk factors of MRSA
- Surgery in recent past
- Using intravenous devices
- Compromised immune system
- Children and elderly
- Confined spaces lacking proper ventilation
Symptoms of MRSA
The symptoms of MRSA are
- A wound or sore that does not heal and worsens
- Pimple type of rashes
- Drainage of fluid or pus from site of cut or injury
- Persistent fever that tends to get worse
- Chest pain due to upper respiratory tract infection
- Cough and shortness of breath
- Complications that arise from MRSA, like pneumonia, produce symptoms specific to the disease
- Toxic shock or sepsis, results in infection and higher levels of blood pathogens
Treatment for MRSA
The treatment for localized MRSA infections that affect the skin mostly are by draining the sores. If there is no requirement for other antibiotics, this is often the only mode of treatment and it can be done as an outpatient in a doctor’s office. This needs to be followed by careful evaluation and preventing further infection by practicing hygiene and disinfection.
Types of MRSA
There are two general types of MRSA infections. These are Healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) infections and Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) infections.
HA-MRSA infections account for most of MRSA infections and are commonly found in people who have been hospitalized in their recent past. While CA-MRSA occurs in healthy people who have had no hospital treatment. However the infection could have been acquired by sharing equipment or in community areas.