Guidelines To Understanding and Combating MRSA
MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacterium that causes difficult to treat infections. It is a more resistant variation of Staphylococcus aureus (SA).
Being Colonised With SA
About one third of the population are carriers of SA bacteria but show no symptoms. These people are said to be colonised.
Developing an SA Infection
Anybody colonised with SA can potentially develop an SA infection later in life. This happens when SA bacteria enters the body via a wound or cut. This is particularly dangerous if it enters the body of someone with a weak immune system.
Hospital-Acquired MRSA (HA-MRSA)
Hospitalised patients often have weaker immune systems. This makes an infection more likely. Furthermore, medical equipment such as catheters can harbour bacteria. Regular use of antibiotics has, in part, contributed to Staphylococcus aureus becoming Methicillin-resistant, hence MRSA. According to government figures, cases of hospital MRSA have increased by 600% over the past decade in England and Wales.
Community-Acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA)
This strain is relatively harmless and may cause boils or minor infections. Outbreaks of CA-MRSA are most common among children, military personnel and people living in other crowded environments such as prisons. Poor hygiene and cuts on the skin will certainly make infection more likely.
Guidelines to Identifying the Symptoms of MRSA
MRSA may begin as a skin infection such as a boil or pimple. From this a furuncle or large boil may develop. A localised cellulitis (characterised by redness, swelling and pain) might appear on the skin. Impetigo, darkening, blistering or necrosis of the skin can develop.
If the infection proceeds to a person’s bloodstream it will produce bacteremia, which is the growth of bacteria in the blood stream. Fever, increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate, or hypotension can result in septic shock.
If MRSA is unchecked a person may develop pneumonia, infection of the heart valves, meningitis, spinal abscesses or necrosis of extensive areas of skin that can prove fatal. Infection of prosthetic devices used by a patient may also complicate the situation.
Guidelines to Preventing an MRSA Infection
MRSA bacteria are spread through skin-to-skin contact and by touching objects contaminated with the bacteria. To prevent infection, a person should:
- Wash their hands with soap and water. This is the most effective way to prevent the spreading of MRSA;
- Wash their hands for a minimum of twenty seconds and ideally dry them with a disposable towel;
- Use an alcohol sanitizer;
- Clean any cuts and cover them with a bandage;
- Never touch other peoples’ bandages or cuts;
- Not share personal hygiene items such as towels, clothing, soap bars and razors.
Guidelines to Treating an MRSA Infection
Antibiotics are commonly used to treat an SA skin infection. However, when the infection becomes resistant to the Methicillin antibiotic, the patient is said to be suffering from MRSA. There are, however, some antibiotics that can treat MRSA infections. Linezolid and Vancomycin, examples of drugs that still retain potency against MRSA, although, in a very small number of cases Vancomycin-resistant SA has developed (VRSA).
Guidelines to Combating MRSA – The Individual
Combating MRSA requires coordinated action. For members of the public visiting hospitals, the alcohol-based cleansers should be used before entering the ward, whilst in the patient’s room, and also when leaving the ward (as regularly as possible).
For healthcare workers, the alcohol based substances provided should be used in addition to regular hand washing. Healthcare workers not following this protocol should be reported to line managers.
Ultimately, not maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness is putting lives at risk.