Some interesting information about MRSA and antibiotic resistance to share with your patients:

What is MRSA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium, present on skin and mucosa in 20% to 30% of healthy people. It may sometimes causes infections if it is introduced into the body.  It typically causes skin and wound infections but can cause pulmonary, surgical site, bloodstream, heart, bone and other invasive infections.  When it is resistant to methicillin (or to oxacillin, a type of penicillin), it is called MRSA or “Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus”.  Typically,  MRSA that is found in hospitals is resistant to many other antibiotics.

What are the causes of MRSA?

MRSA is mainly acquired through direct contact from human to human or via equipment or medical devices. Antibiotic use is also associated with higher risk of acquiring MRSA.

What are the risks of MRSA in hospitals?

In hospitals, MRSA may be introduced in blood or other tissue in the body on several occasions during care, especially when performing invasive procedures such as surgery, injection, ventilation. It can then cause local skin infections or more life-threatening infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections and surgical site infections.  To reduce this risk, hospitals put in place preventive actions: hand washing or disinfection with alcohol-based solution, antisepsis before performing surgery, screening and isolation of patients at high risk of carrying resistant bacteria, and prudent use of antibiotics.

What are the risks of MRSA in the community?

In the community, MRSA infections may occur if MRSA is introduced into the body through broken skin. Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) infections have been described in several countries, e.g. in athletic teams and prisons in North America, and transmission has been documented among family members. Common characteristic appears to be close person-to-person contact.
CA-MRSA infections are mainly skin infections (boils), abscesses; sometimes more infection may occur (e.g. bloodstream infections), above all if CA-MRSA produces a toxin, such as Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PLV).

How can I protect myself/my family from MRSA?

The most important thing to protect yourself and your family from MRSA is to comply with simple hygiene measures: clean and cover wounds, cuts and scrapes and keep your hands clean, until they are healed and avoid sharing personal items such as razors and towels.  If you catch an infection due to MRSA, ask your doctor or nurse about which hygiene measures you and your family will have to comply with, in hospital and when you go back home.

Source: Factsheet on antibiotic resistance. European Antibiotic Awareness Day

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