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Methicillin-Resistant Staph Infection

(MRSA; Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection; Infection, Methicillin-Resistant; Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Community-Acquired MRSA; CA-MRSA; Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Nosocomial MRSA; Healthcare-Associated MRSA; HA-MRSA)



Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a potentially serious infection that resists this antibiotic used to treat infections. It may be resistant to many antibiotics, especially if the infection was contracted in a healthcare setting. MRSA can affect the skin, blood, bones, or lungs. A person can either be infected or colonized with MRSA.

There are two types of MRSA infections:

  • Community-acquired—getting the infection outside of a healthcare setting (hospital or clinic)
  • Nosocomial—getting the infection while inside a healthcare setting

MRSA can spread several ways:

  • Contaminated surfaces
  • Person-to-person
  • From one area of the body to another

Causes    TOP

MRSA is caused by bacteria that adapt to repeated exposure to antibiotics, building up a resistance to them.


Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your chance of developing MRSA include:

  • Community-acquired:
    • Using antibiotics, especially if not needed
    • Impaired immunity
    • Using IV drugs
    • Having a serious illness
    • Sharing crowded spaces such as dormitories or locker rooms
    • Young age, especially children in day care centers
    • Being an athlete, especially in sports using direct contact such as wrestling and football
    • Being a prisoner
    • Being a member of the military
    • Exposure to animals such as being a pet owner, veterinarian, or pig farmer
    • Having a chronic skin disorder
    • Having a wound
    • Being infected with MRSA in the past
    • Ethnicity—tends to run higher in black, Native American, and Pacific Islander populations
  • Nosocomial:
    • Exposure to hospital or clinical settings, especially for long periods of time
    • Living in a long-term care center
    • Using antibiotics
    • Having a wound
    • Impaired immunity
    • Advanced age
    • Presence of invasive indwelling medical devices
    • Sex—male
    • Ethnicity—tends to run higher in black, Native American, and Pacific Islander populations

Symptoms    TOP

MRSA may not cause any symptoms in people who are colonized, but not infected, with the bacteria. In those that have symptoms, MRSA may cause:

  • A rash that may have discharge
  • An area of the skin that is swollen and red
  • Blisters and boils on the skin
  • A fever — may be present with severe infections

Infected Hair Follicle—Folliculitis

Inflammed hair follicle

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Skin biopsy
  • Wound cultures.
  • Any bacteria grown will be tested against many antibiotics to see which one might work.

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:


Antibiotics may given to kill the bacteria based on the location and severity of the infection, and any underlying illness.

Only a few antibiotics are available that can treat MRSA. One that will treat MRSA may be chosen based on what usually works and your culture results.

Incision and Drainage of an Abscess

Your doctor may open the abscess and allow the fluid to drain. Do not attempt to do this on your own.

In many cases this will be the only treatment needed.

Cleansing of the Skin    TOP

Do the following to treat the infection and to keep it from spreading:

  1. Wash your skin with an antibacterial cleanser.
  2. Cover your skin with a sterile dressing.

Decolonization    TOP

Decolonization is a process to help rid your body of the bacteria so you do not reinfect yourself. This process may involve using nasal ointments, washing with special soap, and taking medications, including antibiotics. Decolonization is only recommended in certain cases.


Prevention    TOP

To help reduce your chances of MRSA:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Keep cuts and wounds clean and covered until healed.
  • Avoid contact with other people’s wounds and materials contaminated by wounds.
  • If you are hospitalized, visitors and healthcare workers may be required to wear special clothing and gloves. This will help prevent spreading the infection to others.
  • Clean surfaces to eliminate bacteria.
  • If advised by your doctor, use nasal ointments, wash with special soap, and take medications to prevent the bacteria from infecting you again.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


Canadian Dermatology Association

Public Health Agency of Canada


Barton M, Hawkes M, Moore D, 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.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T189788/Methicillin-resistant-Staphylococcus-aureus-MRSA . Updated January 6, 2017. Accessed August 18, 2017.

MRSA decolonization. Aurora BayCare Medical Center website. Available at: https://ahc.aurorahealthcare.org/fywb/baycare/x34012bc.pdf. Accessed August 18, 2017.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mrsa. Updated May 16, 2016. Accessed August 18, 2017.

MRSA. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated June 2014. Accessed August 18, 2017.

6/4/2018 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T189788/Methicillin-resistant-Staphylococcus-aureus-MRSA : Gualandi N, Mu Y, Bamberg WM, et al. Racial disparities in invasive methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections, 2005-2014. Clin Infect Dis. 2018 Apr 5 [Epub ahead of print].

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 6/4/2018

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