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SEM Picture of MRSA (mag:4780)

Featured Microbe

CDC/Janice Carr; Jeff Hageman


Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph," is a bacterium commonly found on the skin or in the nose of 25-30% of healthy people but not causing an infection. It is part of our normal flora; those organisms living in or on our bodies. Sometimes, S. aureus can cause skin infections such as minor pimples, sties and boils that can be treated without antibiotics. However, more serious infections (such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia) are also possible. Some strains of S. aureus are resistant to antibiotics. MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to certain antibiotics including methicillin and other "cillins" such as oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. Only 1% of our population is colonized with MRSA.

All staph infections including MRSA occur most frequently in persons who have weakened immune systems. Staph and MRSA can also cause illness in persons outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities. MRSA is becoming more common in the community setting, but this varies by geographic region and population.

Staph infections, including MRSA, can cause skin infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. More serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or surgical wound infections. Factors that have been associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include: close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions, and poor hygiene.

Practice good hygiene:

  1. Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
  3. Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
  4. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

Most staph and MRSA infections are treatable with antibiotics. If you are given an antibiotic, take all of the doses, even if the infection is getting better, unless your doctor tells you to stop taking it. Do not share antibiotics with other people or save unfinished antibiotics to use at another time. Many staph skin infections may be treated by draining the abscess or boil and may not require antibiotics. Drainage of skin boils or abscesses should only be done by a healthcare provider. It is possible to have a staph or MRSA skin infection come back (recur) after it is cured. To prevent this from happening, follow your healthcare provider's directions while you have the infection, and follow the prevention steps after the infection is gone.

The above is an excerpt from the Center for Disease Control website. To read the article in full, use the link below.