Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MRSA Infection; What does it mean?

The Tampa Bay Bucs football team are the latest to bring MRSA to the forefront. But what is the all the concern about? How contagious is it? Why is there concerns over the players locker room? What makes this such a concerning infection? 

MRSA, an acronym for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, that refers to a bacteria that is resistant to some antibiotics. Staph (short for Staplycoccus) Aureus is a common bacteria normally found on the skin. The bacteria becomes a problem when there is a break in the skin from an ingrown toenail, cut, or scrape that allows the bacteria to get in. The bacteria then can reproduce and cause an infection. Normally amoxicillin or cephalosporin could be used to treat this infection. However, in the case of MRSA, stronger more potent antibiotics need to be used for treatment. The concern is that fewer oral antibiotics can be used to eradicate this infection. As the incidence of MRSA increases, the potential for greater resistance to antibiotics increase leading to fewer and fewer antibiotics to fight off this infection. Now that is the worst case scenario. Through the judicious use of appropriate antibiotics and limiting exposure to MRSA,  health care professionals are preventing drug resistance.  Hospitals are routinely swabbing a patient's nose to identify MRSA that may already be colonized and present, but not causing infection. These patients are isolated from other patients who have tested negative just to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

MRSA can be spread from person to person or from object to person. However, the bacteria can last in the environment days to weeks. Common ways of spreading the bacteria would be from sharing razors, towels, or direct contact from an infected wound. In the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the spread of MRSA is mostly likely from infected towels in their locker room.

There are ways of protecting yourself. Most alcohol or antibacterial soaps will kill the bacterial. Frequent hand washing can stop the spread of the organism. Also, keeping wounds covered will attempt to prevent infection. Avoid contact with a person who is being actively treated for MRSA.

MRSA is a concern but there are simply ways to protect yourself. Most importantly, if you have been prescribed antibiotics take them according to the doctor's prescription to avoid resistance.

Dr. Alexandra "Sandie" Grulke

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