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Alternative NamesMethicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; Community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA); Hospital-acquired MRSA (HA-MRSA)
Definition Return to top
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterial infection that is highly resistant to some antibiotics.
Causes Return to top
MRSA is caused by a strain of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) bacteria. S. aureus is a common type of bacteria that normally lives on the skin and sometimes in the nasal passages. MRSA refers to S. aureus strains that do not respond to the antibiotics normally used to cure staph infections.
The bacteria can cause infection when they enter the body through a cut, sore, catheter, or breathing tube. The infection can be minor and local (for example, a pimple), or more serious (involving the heart, blood, or bone).
Serious staph infections are more common in people with weak immune systems. This includes patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities and those receiving kidney dialysis.
MRSA infections are grouped into two types:
Symptoms Return to top
Staph skin infections cause a red, swollen, and painful area on the skin. Other symptoms may include:
Symptoms of a more serious staph infection may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend the following tests to detect and confirm the bacteria causing the infection:
Treatment Return to top
Draining the skin sore is often the only treatment needed for a local skin MRSA infection. This can be done at the doctor's office.
More serious MRSA infections, especially HA-MRSA infections, are becoming increasingly difficult to treat. Antibiotics that may still work include:
It is important to finish all doses of antibiotics you have been given, even if you feel better before the final dose. Unfinished doses can lead to further drug resistance in the bacteria, or can cause an infection that seemed to be cured to return.
Other treatments may be needed for more serious infections. The person will be admitted to a hospital. Treatment may involve:
Support Groups Return to top
For more information about MRSA, see the Centers for Disease Control web site: www.cdc.gov.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
How well a person does depends on the severity of the infection and their overall health. MRSA-related pneumonia and blood poisoning are associated with high death rates.
Possible Complications Return to top
Serious staph infections may lead to:
Organ failure and death may result from untreated MRSA infections.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
Careful attention to personal hygiene is key to avoiding MRSA infections.
References Return to top
Siegel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M, Chiarello L; Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. Management of multi-drug resistant organisms in healthcare settings, 2006. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed January 25, 2008.
Nicolle L. Community-acquired MRSA: a practitioner's guide. CMAJ. 2006;175:145.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and management of MRSA in the Community. October 26, 2007. Accessed January 25, 2008.Update Date: 9/28/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, PhD, MD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.