Last Updated August 14th, 2019
MRSA – The Superbug
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of highly contagious bacterial infection spread by Staphylococcus or staph bacteria causing infectious outbursts in different parts of the body. Methicillin, an antibiotic much similar to penicillin, was once effective against combating staph infections. Over the years, the bacteria have grown resistant to this and other penicillin-related antibiotics. Owing to its enhanced resistance to powerful antibiotics, the bacterium is now popularly referred to as the “Superbug”.
These bacteria normally live inside the nose or on the skin of human beings without causing an infection.
On rapid multiplication of these bacteria, the infection starts spreading which typically occurs where the skin is cut or broken.
Initially, this infection manifests as a simple skin sore, boil or a pimple.
But if left untreated, it could lead to more aggravated infections in surgical wounds, bloodstream or the urinary tract, many of which might be fatal.
There are two distinct types of MRSA: HA-MRSA and CA-MRSA.
HA-MRSA stands for Hospital Acquired MRSA, where the infections are acquired from hospitals and nursing homes. It spreads through direct skin contact with an infected wound, contaminated linens, or poorly-sterilized surgical equipment. This can cause severe blood infections and even pneumonia.
CA-MRSA is Community Acquired MRSA , which spreads through direct skin contact with an infected person or wound. It may also occur as a result of improper sanitation and poor hygienic sense.
What causes the rampant spread of MRSA?
As mentioned earlier, the infection is highly pandemic and can be contracted via direct skin touch with an existing MRSA infection.
It can also be acquired if the skin comes in contact with an object having the bacteria.
It is frequently found in people who have low immunity and in areas where there are chances of high exposure to infections.
The following factors also aid in the spread of this infection:
- Broken skin caused by wound, burn, catheter, or IV line often provides a passage for the bacteria to enter our body.
- Immunocompromised patients especially the elderly are more susceptible to contracting this infection.
- Places such as hospitals which are frequented by people a lot provide a perfect breeding ground for such bacteria to spread.
The 5C’s which aid in the transmission of this disease are Crowding, Contact (skin), Compromised skin, Contaminated items and Cleanliness (lack of).
Signs and symptoms of MRSA infection
Though a majority of people carry the MRSA bacteria in their nasal mucosa, many of them do not exhibit any symptoms of this contagious infection. The following are the various symptoms observed in people infected with the “Superbug”.
- Bumps or boils along the skin with a reddish appearance.
- Inflammation and pain at the affected area.
- Pus-filled sores and rashes accompanied by fever.
- Muscle aches, chills, and general weakness.
- Chest ache and difficulty in breathing (dyspnea).
CA-MRSA is mostly found in areas of the body which have more hair growth such as arm pits or the back of the neck. Any kind of cut or rash on the skin will become a host to the Staph bacteria since the skin is damaged. The infection manifests itself in the form of a pus-filled boil or bump with a whitish – yellow center. It is usually warm to touch and will be followed by fever.
Diagnosing the infection
The physician usually obtains the following samples from the infection site and performs tests to confirm the presence of an MRSA infection:
- Wound cultures collected from the infected area and sent to the lab to be analyzed for the presence of Staph bacteria.
- Sputum sample collected from the cough of the patient can be used to check for bacteria culture, pus or blood.
- Urine culture, in which urine sample is collected in a sterile cup, can also show the presence of the bacteria.
- Blood culture in which the blood sample is taken from the patient and the growth of bacteria in it is observed.
How to treat this contagious disease?
The treatment methodology applied to treat this infection depends upon the type, location, and severity of the infection. The treatment procedures for HA-MRSA and CA-MRSA are different.
The bodily symptoms of HA-MRSA continue to manifest for longer periods with more pronounced and severe complications, sometimes even fatal. They are usually treated with antibiotics through an IV.
CA-MRSA symptoms are not as harsh and long-lasting so they can be successfully treated with antibiotics alone.
If the infection is spread over a larger area, the doctor will make an incision on the wound and drain it completely. This entire procedure is conducted under local anaesthesia. In this case, antibiotics are not required.
How to stay away from MRSA infection?
To prevent the spread of CA-MRSA, keep the following things in mind:
- Thoroughly washing hands with soap and water and briskly scrubbing it for at least 15 seconds will get rid of most of the microbes. Use a disposable towel to pat them dry. In case you are travelling and don’t have access to clean water, carry a hand-sanitizer with high alcohol content (62% or higher).
- Keeping wounds, cuts and abrasions completely covered with clean and dry bandages to prevent a bacterial attack. Pus-filled sores are highly likely to contain MRSA so covering them will stop the bacteria from spreading.
- Since MRSA spreads from direct skin contact, it is wise to not share razors, towels, beddings, and sports equipment.
- Proper sanitizing of linen with bleach and hot water, especially if you have cuts and wounds.
- Washing gym and athletic clothes properly after every use.
For curbing the spread of HA-MRSA, the infected person is kept in isolation till the infection is completely treated. The hospital staff, doctors etc have to follow a strict protocol of personal sanitization while dealing with HA-MRSA infected patient. They also need to wear protected garments and ensure that the hospital equipments are sterilized properly. Contaminated linen should be regularly washed and dried in high temperature to kill the microbes.
- MRSA is popularly called as a “superbug” since it has increased resistance against many antibiotics.
- MRSA infection is often confused with a spider bite.
- According to a 2005 report, there were almost 95,000 reported cases of MRSA infection out of which 18,650 proved to be fatal.
- The MRSA bacteria is responsible for more fatalities than pneumococcal, HIV, meningococcal, and flu deaths together.
- MRSA doesn’t normally occur in soil or water. They are largely found in hospitals, schools, gyms, and prisons.
- 1 out of every 3 healthy individuals is a silent carrier of the MRSA bacteria (no symptoms of infections exhibited).
- Contact sports, living in over-crowded places, and homosexual acts amongst men are considered as risk-factors for MRSA.
- MRSA bacterial infection is not just limited to the skin; it may extend to the lungs, eyes, joints, and even the blood.
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Dos and Don'ts
- Wash hands thoroughly after using the restroom and before and after handling edible items.
- Make sure to cover cuts, scrapes, and skin lesions with clean and sterile dressing.
- Use disinfectant regularly to maintain basic hygiene, if you have people around you acquiring this infection.
- Make physical contact with an MRSA infected person.
- Share towels, bedding, clothes, and personal care items with them.
- Consume antibiotics without doctor’s prescription. This decreases your resistance against MRSA bacteria
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