A methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria can affect the skin, blood, bones, or lungs. A person can either be infected or colonized with MRSA. When a person is infected, the bacteria cause symptoms. A person colonized also has the bacteria, but it may not cause any symptoms. An MRSA infection is serious because the bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics that are used to treat infections.
There are two types of MRSA infection: community-acquired and nosocomial. People who have a community-acquired MRSA infection were infected outside of a hospital setting (for example, a dormitory). Nosocomial MRSA infections occur in healthcare settings (such as hospitals or clinics).
An MRSA infection can spread several ways:
The following factors increase your chance of infection. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is an MRSA infection. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your doctor.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will do a physical exam. Tests may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria. Only a few antibiotics are available that can treat an MRSA infection.
Your doctor may open the abscess and allow the fluid to drain. Do not attempt to do this on your own.
Do the following to treat the infection and to keep it from spreading:
Decolonization is a process to help rid your body of the MRSA infection. This process may involve using nasal ointments, washing with special soap, and taking medicines (including antibiotics). Decolonization is only recommended in certain cases.
To help reduce your chance of getting an MRSA infection, take the following steps:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Public Health Agency of Canada
Barton M, Hawkes M, et al. Guidelines for the prevention and management of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: A perspective for Canadian health care practitioners. Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol. 2006;17(Suppl C):4C.
Community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com. Updated July 2009. Accessed July 28, 2009.
MRSA decolonization. Aurora BayCare Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.aurorahealthcare.org/FYWB_pdfs/baycare/x34012bc.pdf. Accessed August 29, 2011.
Nosocomial methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated July 2009. Accessed July 28, 2009.
Seasonal flu and staph infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flustaph.htm. Updated September 2008. Accessed July 28, 2009.
Staph infections. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.nemours.org/e-service/kidshealth.html. Accessed July 28, 2009.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Peter Lucas, MD
Last Updated: 09/30/2012