Most patients have heard media coverage about drug-resistant bugs or bacteria. One of the most common antibiotic resistant bacterial infections is referred to as MRSA. MRSA stands for “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.” Staphylococcus, usually called “staph”, is a group of bacteria that is normally found on human skin and in the nose. Though it’s harmless while the skin barrier is intact, it can cause infections that range in severity from mild to life-threatening when the bacteria get inside your body (usually through a cut or scratch in the skin).
When MRSA Becomes Dangerous
Most people have immune systems that are able to resolve a mild infection without need for treatment. However, when bacterial infection causes problems such as abscesses, boils, impetigo, or more serious infections like an infected joint or heart valve, antibiotics are usually needed. Treatment of MRSA is more complicated because the strains of bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics.
There are some infections that are severe enough that the antibiotics must be administered through an IV, but most of the time treatment can be provided with an antibiotic that is taken by mouth.
After Completing Treatment for MRSA Infection
There is some controversy regarding what to do after completing treatment for an MRSA infection. Good hand-washing practices and use of a disinfectant on hard surfaces are always recommended, as well as cleaning of household surfaces with a disinfectant.
In the case of recurrent MRSA infections, particularly in someone with a weakened immune system, it is sometimes recommended that the patient and their close household contacts try to decolonize, or eradicate, the MRSA bacteria that may be living on their skin or in their nostrils. This is usually done with a 10 day regimen of Bactroban (mupirocin) ointment applied three times daily just inside the nostrils with a cotton tip applicator and washing the entire body with a chlorhexidine soap.
There is not yet sufficient evidence to support MRSA decolonization as a routine practice, but if you or a family member has had recurrent MRSA infections, you should speak with your doctor to see if decolonization would be a good idea.
About Dr. Eleanor Kurtz
Eleanor Kurtz, MD, of Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach, is an internal medicine physician who earned her medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio. She completed an internship, as well as a residency in internal medicine, at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. A diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Kurtz is a member of the American Medical Association and American College of Physicians. She has a special interest in wound care. Read more blog posts by Dr. Kurtz!
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kurtz in Virginia Beach please call (757) 305-1797!