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MRSA Bacteria: Facts, Information and Treatment News

Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2019/03/14

Synopsis: Information and facts on Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus a deadly flesh eating bacteria or superbug that claims many lives globally each year.

Main Document

What is MRSA?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium responsible for several difficult to treat infections in humans. It is also called Oxacillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (ORSA).

MRSA is any strain of Staphylococcus aureus that has developed, through the process of natural selection, resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, which include the penicillins (methicillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin, oxacillin, etc.) and the cephalosporins.

  • In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections.
  • In medical facilities, MRSA causes life-threatening bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical site infections.

The bacterium was first discovered in the UK in 1961, just a few years after Methicillin was being used to treat Staph infections. Eventually Staphylococcus became immune to the antibiotic known as Methicillin and formed into another harmful bacteria called MRSA or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. This bacterium only began as a hospital acquired infection, now it's being seen in the schools and community as well.

MRSA is especially troublesome in hospitals, where patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weakened immune systems are at greater risk of infection than the general public. In fact, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a report showed that MRSA infections reached 127,000 in 1999, with as many as 11,000 people dying from the deadly superbug.

MRSA stands for methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The name "staph" comes from the name of the bacterium itself, Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA is so named because it cannot be treated by most of the known antibiotics - making it possibly deadly to those who are infected. MRSA is affected by some of the most powerful antibiotics, however, so there is a chance that it can be treated once a person is diagnosed.

Most people have heard about the recent rash of MRSA staph infections that have been found in schools and other communities in the United States. For those of you who aren't aware of what MRSA is, it's a deadly flesh eating bacteria that has taken thousands of lives globally each year, hence the name Superbug.

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection can spread via skin to skin contact. It is both topical, in the form of boils and systemic within your body.
MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection can spread via skin to skin contact. It is both topical, in the form of boils and systemic within your body.

This flesh eating bacterium has been ridiculed and not taken seriously, workers in the medical facility as well as the general public have little knowledge about the dangerous outcome this deadly disease has. A major problem with health care facilities these days is the little knowledge provided to and by these facilities.

By becoming familiar with MRSA it can save a life, knowledge is the key. MRSA organisms can be found on practically everyone's skin, in which, this can cause no major problems. However, if the organisms get inside the body, through a cut or any open areas, it can become a serious infection. MRSA infections usually start out by a boil, a small pimple like blemish, cellulitis, sepsis, even pneumonia. Be cautious of MRSA pneumonia, this is another deadly bacterium. MRSA pneumonia is a relatively new infection that is very rare, still the chance is there.

S. aureus - Most commonly colonizes the anterior nares (the nostrils), although the respiratory tract, opened wounds, intravenous catheters, and urinary tract are also potential sites for infection. Healthy individuals may carry MRSA asymptomatically for periods ranging from a few weeks to many years. Patients with compromised immune systems are at a significantly greater risk of symptomatic secondary infection.

Strains of MRSA

  • EMRSA15
  • EMRSA16
  • MRSA252
  • CC8 strain designated ST8:USA300
  • ST8:USA400
  • ST8:USA500
  • ST59:USA1000

Both the EMRSA15 and EMRSA16 strains are resistant to erythromycin and ciprofloxacin.

Two Main Types of MRSA Infections

  • Hospital-acquired MRSA (HA-MRSA)
  • Community acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA)

A clue to the meaning of these terms in included in the phrases themselves. Hospital-acquired MRSA is an infection picked up by a patient who is admitted to the hospital for an unrelated problem and subsequently becomes infected by methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus from a hospital source secondary to their initial health care issue. To date, most of the concern has been related to hospital acquired MRSA (HA-MRSA) or nosocomial infection. Community-acquired MRSA infections develop from exposure to a carrier or contaminated surface in the greater community (outside the hospital).

Hospital Acquired MRSA Infections

Photograph depicts a cutaneous abscess located on the back, which had been caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, referred to by the acronym MRSA. Photo credit: Gregory Moran, M.D. Content source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Photograph depicts a cutaneous abscess located on the back, which had been caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, referred to by the acronym MRSA. Photo credit: Gregory Moran, M.D. Content source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospitals have been the source of most MRSA infections for several reasons. The sick patient population generally has weaker immune systems. Hospital staff possibly carrying these superbugs as they move from patient to patient. Routine of broad spectrum antibiotics provides selective pressure that causes the microorganisms to become resistant. Many hospital procedures are invasive, meaning they break the skin and introduce the organisms directly into the patient body. The hospital building is not the only place where a person may develop a nosocomial infection. The other places where a person may become infected with MRSA include any health care facility. Infections from long term care facilities and nursing homes also apply.

Numerous experts and policy makers have called for hospitals to screen patients for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections and isolate anyone testing positive to prevent the spread of these so-called "Superbugs" in healthcare settings. Several states have enacted laws requiring patients be screened for MRSA upon admission.

Researchers evaluated the cost of a hospital infection prevention strategy that targeted high-risk patients and found the costs of the program exceeded the potential savings to the hospital that would be generated by preventing MRSA infections.

They found nares screening and isolation of high-risk patients prevented fewer than one infection (0.6) per 1,000 high-risk admissions to the hospital and created a financial loss of $36,899 for the hospitals. Using more extensive MRSA screening - which included nares, pharynx and inguinal folds screening - prevented slightly more infections (0.8 infections per 1,000 high-risk admissions), according to the study. But the researchers reported an even larger financial loss of $51,478 with the more extensive screening.

"Although more extensive MRSA testing and isolation could prevent hospital-acquired MRSA infections, we found the cost of such a program far exceeds any savings to the hospital. Our results are surprising because we know that preventing MRSA infections is better for the healthcare system as a whole, but the rewards of this effort do not seem to come back to the hospital in a meaningful way." said Dr. McKinnell. "In today's constrained healthcare environment, hospitals must either be given better financial incentives or better and more cost-effective infection prevention strategies to provide the greatest benefit to the people they serve."

Community Acquired MRSA Infections

As stated before, the new reports are primarily related to Community acquired MRSA. The monitoring of Community acquired MRSA is not as extensive as many of these infections my go unreported unless severe illness or death results.

Community acquired MRSA may be on the rise for several reasons. Patients are released from the hospital into the community with sub-symptomatic MRSA infections carrying this methicillin resistant staph aureus into the community. (An infection is still considered hospital acquired if it develops within 30 days of hospital release.)

The rise of outpatient procedures may possibly contribute to MRSA in the community and frankly, some people are silent MRSA carriers. Community-acquired MRSA can be transmitted in any location where people gather.

The news reports include MRSA outbreaks in schools and colleges, particularly athletic programs. Across the country, schools have rightly closed in an attempt to stop the spread of community acquired MRSA. Other places that may cause concern for Community acquired MRSA are daycare facilities, among the prison population, ambulatory care centers.

The real challenge is how to quickly identify the source of community acquired MRSA and how to effectively eradicate these superbugs assuring community safety. Take steps to protect your loved ones from community acquired MRSA. Be aware of the danger of contracting MRSA from any source whether in the community or in the hospital.

Becoming Infected with MRSA

Becoming infected with the MRSA Superbug is a very serious health risk if you are a patient or an employee in a hospital. If you have surgery, burns, or a catheter you are at an extremely high risk to develop MRSA. Some people can be a carrier of MRSA and show absolutely no symptoms, some people don't find out until they experience a wound that doesn't heal correctly.

On the other hand, some symptoms can be quiet obvious.

There are many symptoms that can occur such as warm red skin, swelling, joint pain, boils and blisters, fever, nausea and chills can even occur. A strange fact about MRSA is that the infected spot may not be the same site the boil appears. If there is a suspected case of MRSA it should be reported immediately, getting diagnosed as quickly as possible can decrease the further spread of this deadly bacterium.

A lot of the MRSA spread today comes from Health care facilities and community acquired, easily causing this to be an epidemic. The factors associated with high rates of transmission of MRSA is close skin contact with an individual who in infected, poor personal hygiene, contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, and crowded living conditions.

MRSA Symptoms May Include:

  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Fever and chills
  • General ill feeling
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • Cough or shortness of breath

Things to Do to Help Prevent MRSA Infection:

  • Practice good hygiene
  • Do Not share any personal items with anyone.
  • Wash hands before and after using the restroom.
  • Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages
  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds at a time and wash often
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed
  • Wash soiled sheets, towels, and clothes in hot water with bleach and dry in a hot dryer
  • If you come into contact with wounds, bandages, skin drainage, or any type of bodily fluids be sure to wear gloves, and proper hand washing right afterwards.
  • Alcohol based hand sanitizer is also great, it's as effective as hand washing, use about 10 times, then do a good wash, highly recommended for hospital employees.
  • Keep any open skin areas covered until they are completely healed, I recommend cleaning the open areas with Peroxide every night, along with an antibiotic ointment.
  • If you are a patient at a hospital, ask your caregiver to wash his/her hands before touching you. Some caregivers can transmit MRSA from patient to patient.

MRSA Facts and Statistics

  • 14% of all infections occurred in the community with no exposure to healthcare and this number is continuing to grow.
  • A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows a 28% decline in hospital-associated MRSA infections between 2005 and 2008.
  • A study released in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that "germ-killing soaps and ointments" used in ICU's reduced cases of MRSA by 40%.
  • 85% of all invasive MRSA infections were from healthcare facilities with patients contracting infections after their stay ( two-thirds) and one-third while in the facility.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were estimated 94,360 MRSA infections (invasive) in the US with approx. 18,650 deaths in 2005.
  • Studies show that about one in three (33%) people carry staph in their nose, usually without any illness. Two in 100 people carry MRSA. Some organizations estimate the true numbers to be over one million infected in the US with MRSA and over 100,00 deaths.

Some MRSA Superbugs Linked to Livestock

Some MRSA bugs in UK hospitals can be traced back to a type of bacteria found in farm animals, a study suggests.

A strain of drug-resistant bacteria carried by some livestock - the MRSA strain Staphylococcus aureus CC398 - has also been found in patients, researchers say. People and animals generally harbour distinct variants of CC398, which the team say evolved from the same original bacteria. However, the CC398 strain found in livestock can be transmitted to humans, and the study shows that this has happened on many occasions.

The study provides new evidence that the livestock-associated CC398 strain could spread in hospitals, including those with newborn babies. CC398 from farm animals is resistant to some common antibiotic drugs, which could make it harder to treat. The strain's enhanced drug resistance in livestock is likely to be the result of widespread use of antibiotics on farms, scientists say.

Patients in hospitals and nursing homes are at increased risk of MRSA infection, but healthy people in the wider community can also become infected with some strains. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh studied how the CC398 strain evolved using a state-of-the-art genetic analysis technique. For the first time, researchers unraveled the full genetic code of CC398 strains from the UK, and compared these with published genetic data on CC398 bugs from humans and livestock around the world.

They say that CC398 has entered the UK on several occasions since the mid-1940s, though the original source of the bacteria remains unclear. Lead researcher Dr Melissa Ward said:

"Our findings emphasize the need for strict bio-security practices in the food production industry, as well as continued surveillance and infection control of MRSA in hospitals. Responsible use of antibiotics in healthcare settings and agriculture is of utmost importance."

The study, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, was carried out by the University of Edinburgh's Center for Immunity, Infection and Evolution and The Roslin Institute, in collaboration with the Scottish MRSA Reference Laboratory.

If you think that you have MRSA you should see a doctor as soon as possible, and you should notify people you have come in contact with if it turns out you are infected. This way you can fight the chance of an outbreak before it starts.



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