Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. The infection caused by this strain is commonly referred to as Mercer infection. While 20-30% of the human population are carriers of staph bacteria, less than 2% of people are colonized with MRSA. These bacteria don't pose a threat to us, as long as they stay on the surface of the skin. Problems arise when they enter the body. More often than not, the portal of entry is a break on the surface of the skin.
While most staph infections can be treated with antibiotics, MRSA infection is difficult to treat. This is due to the fact that MRSA strain has become resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics that are normally prescribed for treating infections caused by staph bacteria. This immunity or resistance to antibiotics acquired by the bacteria is a result of overuse or misuse of antibiotics such as penicillin, methicillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin, amoxicillin, and cephalosporins.
MRSA infections are categorized into hospital-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) and community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA). HA-MRSA infections are contracted during a stay in a clinic or hospital, whereas CA-MRSA infections occur due to skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
Symptoms of MRSA Infection
Suppurative skin infections, which are infections that are characterized by the formation of pus, are often caused by MRSA bacteria. The early symptoms of this infection include the development of small, reddish bumps that resemble spider bites or pimples. These pimple-like lesions can develop into fluid-filled blisters. Here are some of the skin conditions that may be caused by this bacterial infection.
Superficial Skin Lesions
- Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that is characterized by pain, swelling, and redness. It is caused by inflammation of the dermis and the subcutaneous layer of the skin.
- Pus-filled abscesses, boils, carbuncles, or furuncles could form due to the inflammation of the hair follicles by this bacteria. Accumulation of pus and dead tissue may also be observed.
- An eye stye could form when the sebaceous glands of the eyelid are affected by this bacteria.
- Impetigo is a contagious skin infection that is characterized by the development of pus-filled blisters. These blisters may ooze and become encrusted.
Invasive MRSA Infections
While soft tissue infections are common, MRSA infections could sometimes affect the lungs, bones, joints, or heart. It could lead to:
- Urinary tract infections
- Mastitis (inflammation of the breast)
- Osteomyelitis (inflammation of bone)
- Endocarditis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the heart)
- Blood poisoning
- Septic arthritis
It becomes very important to pay attention to skin lesions, as these are the first signs of this infection. Other symptoms of MRSA include headaches, fever, malaise, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, chills, and shortness of breath. Children, elderly, and those who have a weak immune system are more likely to develop a mercer infection.
Treatment and Preventive Measures
Treatment would vary, depending on factors such as severity of the infection, age of the affected person, and the presence of existing medical conditions. Determining the resistance of this bacterium to antibiotics is an integral part of the treatment. Various tests are conducted to check the body's response to different antibiotics. Although the MRSA bacteria are resistant to most antibiotics, there are still some antibiotics that can be effective against this bacterium. Drainage of pus and fluid is also required in case of suppurative skin lesions. Though MRSA is resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics, certain antibiotics have proved to be effective.
Preventive Measures for HA-MRSA
Complying with the infection control practices is extremely essential for preventing transmission of MRSA. Patients who suffer from chronic illnesses or those with a weak immune system are definitely at a risk of developing this infection. Moreover, hospital staff could also be carriers of MRSA. Bacteria may pass to the patients who are undergoing an invasive procedure. MRSA bacteria can thrive in health care settings, which is why people working in nursing homes, dialysis centers, and long-term care facilities in hospitals need to follow certain preventive measures.
- If anyone who works in healthcare settings or a patient seems to be exhibiting the symptoms of an MRSA infection, blood tests and culture tests must be conducted at the earliest.
- Those who are infected should be kept in a separate ward.
- Health care workers, as well as visitors must wear protective garments to avoid the transmission of MRSA.
- Doctors and nurses must wear disposable gloves while changing dressings.
- Doctors, nurses, or hospital staff must wash their hands with an antibacterial handwash before entering and leaving wards.
- The patient's room must be disinfected.
- Antiseptic solutions or wipes must be used to clean surfaces that may have been contaminated.
- Linen or clothes that come in contact with an infected person must be changed on a daily basis.
Preventive Measures for CA-MRSA
CA-MRSA infections are MRSA infections that affect healthy individuals. Healthy individuals could get this infection due to contact with an infected person.
- As this bacteria can enter the body through cuts or wounds, wounds must be treated at the earliest. Apply an antiseptic cream on wounds, cuts, or burns and cover them with a band-aid or dressing.
- MRSA bacteria can spread by using personal belongings of a person who is affected by this bacterial infection. Thus, it would be best to avoid sharing items such as clothing, towels, razors, etc.
- Wash your hands with an antibacterial handwash to get rid of germs and bacteria.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.