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MRSA Infection (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Infection)


Disease: MRSA Infection (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Infection) MRSA Infection (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Infection)
Category: Infectious diseases
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Disease Definition:

The Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that are usually called "staph" cause the condition called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which can be fatal. The bacteria mentioned above is a strain of staph that's resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it.

In hospitals or other health care settings such as dialysis centers and nursing homes, most MRSA infections occur. It is known as HA-MRSA, or health care-associated MRSA. The risk of HA-MRSA is great in people with weakened immune systems and older adults. Among otherwise healthy people in the wider community, another type of MRSA has occurred more recently. A serious form of pneumonia and serious skin and soft tissue infections are caused by community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Red bumps that are similar to boils, pimples or spider bites is how staph skin infections usually start, and they can quickly turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining. The bacteria can penetrate into the body and end up causing life-threatening infections in heart valves, surgical wounds, lungs, bloodstream and bones; but sometimes, the bacteria remain confined to the skin.


A strain of staph that's resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it is called MRSA.

About one-third of the population has staph bacteria on their skin or in their nose. A person is said to be "colonized" but not infected in case he/she has staph on the skin or in the nose but is not sick. Healthy people can pass the germ to others when they are colonized and have no ill effects.

Unless staph bacteria enter the body through a cut or other wound, they are generally harmless, and they often cause only minor skin problems in healthy people even when they enter the body in that way. However, serious illness can be caused by staph infections. Usually occurring in hospitals and long term care facilities, this infection is most common in older adults and people who have weakened immune systems. However, serious infections have been occurring in otherwise healthy people in the past several years, for instance athletes who share personal items or equipment.

Humans bear most of the responsibility for this problem despite the fact that the survival tactics of bacteria contribute to antibiotic resistance. The following are included in the leading causes of antibiotic resistance:

Germ mutation:
Because antibiotics don’t destroy every germ they target, they contribute to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria even when they are used appropriately. Germs that survive treatment with one antibiotic soon learn to resist others, as bacteria live on an evolutionary fast track. Only a handful of drugs are now effective against most forms of staph because some germs have become resistant to just about everything, which results from the mutation of the bacteria, which is much quicker than new drugs can be produced.

Unnecessary antibiotic use:
The result of decades of excessive and unnecessary antibiotic use is MRSA, among other superbugs. Antibiotics have been prescribed for years for flu, colds and other viral infections that don't respond to these drugs, and for simple bacterial infections that normally clear on their own.

Antibiotics in food and water:  
When the runoff from feedlots contaminates streams and groundwater, antibiotics that can be found in livestock find their way into municipal water systems. This means that prescription drugs aren't the only source of antibiotics.

The risk factors for hospital and community strains of MRSA differ because the two strains generally occur in different settings.


Association with health care workers:
The risk of serious staph infections increases in people who are in close contact with health care workers.

Sharing towels or athletic equipment:
Among athletes sharing uniforms, towels, equipment or razors, CA-MRSA has spread.

Young age:
In children, CA-MRSA can be particularly dangerous. A widespread infection can be quickly caused by MRSA. Because children don't yet have antibodies to common germs or their immune systems aren't fully developed, they may be especially susceptible. Dangerous forms of pneumonia, which can be the result of CA-MRSA, are much more likely to develop in children and young adults than in older people.

Participating in contact sports:
Through skin-to-skin contact and abrasions and cuts, the bacteria spread easily. CA-MRSA has affected sports teams.

Living in crowded or unsanitary conditions:
 In military training camps, outbreaks of CA-MRSA have occurred.
CA-MRSA is spreading through certain groups of homosexual men as well.


Recent antibiotic use:
The risk of HA-MRSA can be increased as a result of treatment with cephalosporin antibiotics or fluoroquinolones.

Living in a long term care facility:
In these facilities, MRSA is prevalent. Even if carriers of MRSA are not sick themselves, they have the ability to spread it.

A current or recent hospitalization:
MRSA remains a concern in hospitals, where it can attack those most vulnerable — older adults and people with weakened immune systems, burns, surgical wounds or serious underlying health problems. When having a hospital stay of more than 14 days, this is particularly true. It has been estimated that 46 out of every 1,000 hospitalized people are infected or colonized with MRSA.

Invasive devices:
The risk is higher in people who are catheterized, are on dialysis, or have feeding tubes or other invasive devices.





Both community- and hospital-associated strains of MRSA still respond to certain medications. To treat resistant germs, doctors often rely on the antibiotic vancomycin in hospitals and care facilities. Vancomycin or other antibiotics that have proved effective against particular strains may treat CA-MRSA. Vancomycin may become less effective, although it saves lives. There are already strains of MRSA that are less easily killed by vancomycin.

Antibiotics may not be necessary in some cases. For instance, rather than treating the infection with drugs, doctors may sometimes drain a superficial abscess caused by MRSA.


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