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Date: 30 September 2023
MRSA questions and answers
- What is MRSA?
- Can MRSA be treated with antibiotics?
- How likely are you to die from MRSA?
- Is it a flesh-eating bug?
- What are the symptoms?
- How can it be prevented?
- Can it only be caught in hospital?
- Do you catch it because hospitals are dirty?
- Can it be passed on from person to person? If so, how?
- What types of people are likely to catch MRSA?
- Is there a cure for it?
- Is there a long-term effect on your life if you have had the infection?
- Are there any health insurance implications from contracting/carrying MRSA?
- Is MRSA passed on to unborn children?
- What can I do to prevent MRSA at home and when I come to hospital as a visitor or as a patient?
- How can I find out if I carry MRSA?
- Do animals carry it?
- Can animals pass it on to humans?
- Where can you find out more information about MRSA?
MRSA stands for methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium commonly carried on the skin (MSSA). However, the issue is the methicillin resistance, which means it has developed a resistance to the most common antibiotic used for its treatment.
Yes, it still can be treated, but antibiotic treatment is only for clinical infection. Patients who are not clinically infected, but are colonised with MRSA, i.e. carry it up their nose or on their skin, are treated with a disinfectant liquid soap and a cream put up the nose to reduce the levels there while they are in hospital.
This is unlikely.
Essentially the answer is no. However, some strains of Staphylococcus aureus, which may be methicillin resistant or not, can produce a toxin which is commonly know as a flesh eating bug. This is very rare.
If you are colonised with (just carrying) MRSA there are no symptoms.
If you are clinically infected, the symptoms are the same as with any other infection, i.e. again dependent on where it is, but essentially for a skin infection, it's red, inflamed and painful, and you may have a temperature.
With a chest infection, you may produce green sputum and again have a temperature.
It is not always possible to prevent acquiring MRSA or other bugs. Good standards of personal hygiene, including hand washing, can help.
No. Certainly, in healthcare settings and communities such as nursing or residential homes, cross infection can take place and there is evidence of community spread.
No, MRSA is not caught because hospitals are dirty. But the environment does have a role to play with spread in relation to many healthcare-acquired infections.
Yes, it can be passed from person to person, through direct contact without adequate hand washing after that contact. Or if somebody has a severe chest infection, MRSA can be passed via the respiratory route, through coughing.
Anybody can acquire MRSA. Whether or not it then causes any symptoms depends on whether they have severe medical problems.
This depends on how you define a cure. There are effective treatments. If you just carry the bug, essentially, you will have no symptoms. Therefore, acquisition by others who come into close contact may occur, but again they will have no symptoms and will not know they have got it unless they are screened.
It is unlikely that it will cause a clinical infection. There are several different antibiotic treatments available for infections.
There is no evidence to suggest there is a long term effect on your life if you have had MRSA.
You will need to check with insurance companies, but we have no evidence to suggest so.
It is possible for a mother to pass MRSA onto the child via the birth canal during a normal delivery.
Essentially, good standards of personal hygiene, hand hygiene and the use of alcohol gels reduce the risk of cross infection with all organisms, not just MRSA.
The only way to identify if you carry it is to be screened. For more information, please see the related link box.
Yes, there is an evidence base that suggests animals do carry MRSA, probably acquired from human sources.
Yes, cats and dogs, for example, carry it on their paws. Stroking pets, and other contact with animal carriers, can pass the bacteria to humans.
Please see the external links section for further information about MRSA.
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