MRSA - The SuperStaph

The Arrival Of A Super Bug

Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a staph infection with a relatively short history.  While Staphylococcus aureus has been around for centuries, or for even a millennia, MRSA was only recently determined, having been originally noted in 1961.  MRSA causes many kinds of infections, including those of the skin.  Because infectious outbreaks of MRSA have occurred increasingly in community settings and are being called "community-associated" infections.  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that about 12% of MRSA infections are now community associated; however the number can vary.  MRSA are antibiotic-resistant staph infections and they are found worldwide.

Where Does It Start?

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium which occurs naturally on the skin of human beings.  It is generally benign, but should there be a break in the skin due to an injury, scratch, bite or dermatitis, the bacteria infiltrates the skin and causes infection.  Staph infections can manifest in boils, impetigo, pilonidal cysts, acne,stys and cellulitis, among other maladies.  MRSA is also responsible for these infections.  If the strain of Staph is MRSA, it may be difficult to treat the infection with regular antibiotics.  MRSA strains of bacteria are resistant to many different antibiotics and consequently the infections are harder to treat.  If MRSA spreads within the body into the internal organs it can then become life-threatening.  Symptoms such as fever, chills, severe headaches, joint pain, low blood pressure and rashes on the body, when accompanying boils, cellulitis or other skin infections, are indications that medical attention is required immediately.

How Does It Spread?

People become infected with MRSA either by physical contact with an infected person or a carrier of the bacteria, or they come in contact with objects which have been touched by MRSA infected people or carriers of MRSA.  As a rule, normal skin tissue does not allow for the penetration of the bacteria into the skin and for infection to ensue.  If there are skin openings from cuts, abrasions, skin disorders (such as psoriasis), blisters or bites, then the bacteria can find its way into the body and create infection.

There are certain groups of individuals at higher risk for MRSA infection, such as those who have incurred skin breaks through needles, surgery, burns or ulcers of the skin.  People with compromised immune systems, HIV/AIDS sufferers, elderly or those with chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer are also at high risk of infection.  Health-care workers must be extremely aware to take precautions in order to prevent infections while working in surroundings where MRSA infection is present.