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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. S.aureus is a common germ found living harmlessly on the skin and within the nostrils. S.aureus located on the skin can occasionally cause minor skin infections such as boils, abscesses, and infection of cuts. These minor skin infections can be treated with antibiotics. More severe symptoms can also be caused by S.aureus, such as wound infections after surgery.
MRSA is a type of S.aureus that has become resistant to the antibiotic meticilin and some other antibiotics used to treat infections. This means that these antibiotics are unable to kill the MRSA bacteria. There are therefore only a limited number of antibiotics which are able to treat infections caused to MRSA.
MRSA does not pose a risk to healthy individuals within the community. Healthy individuals who carry MRSA within their nostrils or on the surface of the skin are mostly unaware as they do not suffer from any of the symptoms. These individuals are said to be 'colonised' with MRSA. MRSA causes problems when they have a chance to enter into the body, for example through a cut in the skin.
How the infection is spread
MRSA is spread by direct physical contact with an individual infected with MRSA or through an individual colonised with MRSA. However MRSA can be spread through contact with hard surfaces, such as wash basins and materials, such as towels and linen used by an individual infected or colonised with MRSA.
Symptoms of MRSA depend upon the area of the body that is infected. They include:
- Skin infections (boils, absecesses, styes, carbuncles, cellulitis, impetigo)
- Severe infections (septicaemia, septic shock, osteomyelitis, abcesses, meningitis. Pneumonia, endocarditis)
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- Advice for those affected by MRSA outside of the hospital www.clean-safe-care.nhs.uk/ArticleFiles/Events/MRSA_Advice.pdf
- HPA (2006).
- MRSA information for patients in hospital www.oxfordradcliffe.nhs.uk/forpatients/infection_control/icdocs/090326hpamrsa.pdf
- HPA (2008).
- Guidance on the diagnosis and management of PVL-associated Staphylococcus aureus infections (PVL-SA) in England www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1218699411960
- NHS Choices website MRSA