• 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)


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

    Risk Factors

    The following factors increase your chance of infection. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
      • Impaired immunity
      • Sharing crowded spaces (such as dormitories or locker rooms)
      • Using intravenous drugs
      • Serious illness
      • Being a young child, athlete, prisoner, or military personnel
      • Exposure to animals (such as being a pet owner, veterinarian, or pig farmer)
      • Using antibiotics
      • Chronic skin disorder
      • Being infected with MRSA in the past
      Nosocomial (healthcare-associated):
      • Impaired immunity
      • Exposure to hospital or clinical settings
      • Advanced age
      • Sex: male
      • Chronic illness
      • Using antibiotics
      • Having a wound
      • Living in a long-term care center
      • Having an indwelling medical device (for example, a feeding tube or intravenous catheter)


    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.
    • Folliculitis—infection of hair follicles
    • Boils—a skin infection that may drain pus, blood, or an amber-colored liquid
    • Scalded skin syndrome—a skin infection characterized by a fever, rash, and sometimes blisters
    • Impetigo—large blisters on the skin
    • Toxic shock syndrome—a rare but serious bacterial infection
      • Two primary symptoms are a rash and high fever.
    • Cellulitis—a skin infection characterized by a swollen, red area that spreads quickly
    • Abscess
    Infected Hair Follicle—Folliculitis
    Inflammed hair follicle
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will do a physical exam. Tests may include:
    • Wound cultures
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests
    • Skin biopsy—removal of a sample of skin to test for infection


    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.

    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.

    Cleansing of the Skin

    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 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:
    • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
    • 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.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov

    National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www.niaid.nih.gov


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca


    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%5Fpdfs/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.

    Revision Information

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