MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is a contagious skin infection that can be fatal.
MRSA is caused by the common bacteria staphylococcus -- or "staph" for short. Most of us carry staph bacteria on our skin and in our noses without being infected. It is spread easily by skin to skin contact even by people who don't show any signs of infection.
In the 70s and 80s, MRSA was commonly referred to as a hospital acquired infection (HA-MRSA). The infections spread rapidly within hospital settings and nursing homes where patients with weakened immune systems lived in close quarters.
The centers For Disease Control (CDC) and public health experts went to great measures to educate health care workers about the importance of hand washing between patient care to contain the bacteria within hospitals and nursing homes.
Over time the bacteria colonized patients (and health care workers) and mutated to become super resistant to most antibiotics that normally kept it in check. In the late 80s and early 90s, MRSA bacteria leaped from the hospital setting and into the surrounding communities where cases began to arise among the healthy population. Those cases are referred to as community acquired infections (CA-MRSA).
MRSA made headline news recently when healthy young people began dying from simple skin infections.
Staph becomes a problem when it enters the body through a break in the skin such as a cut or scratch. Once in the bloodstream, it is very difficult to treat because MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics. For that reason, it is sometimes referred to as a "super bug."
It's now resistant to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other antibiotics. While a few antibiotics still work, MRSA is constantly adapting and researchers are having a tough time developing new antibiotics to keep up with the new strains.
The biggest factor in the proliferation of MRSA is the practice of prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily over the decades as well as antibiotics given to livestock that leached into the municipal city water.
The most at risk for MRSA infections are young children whose immune systems aren't fully developed yet, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS patients.
MRSA causes soft tissue infections (such as the example in the pic above), but it can also spread to the lungs (leading to pneumonia) or to the bones and heart valves. Most MRSA skin infections are harmless and resolve within days. The infection generally starts out as small red bumps or tiny blisters, boils or spider bites.
Signs and Symptoms of MRSA include:
- Swelling, redness and tenderness of the skin around the wound
- Foul smelly, pus or drainage
More Info On The Web
Skin Problems and Treatments: Understanding MRSA - WebMD
MRSA - Mayo Clinic