MRSA: Fighting the Superbug
For years, health experts have observed that people in hospitals or nursing homes face a higher risk for infection by bacteria called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. But with the recent appearance of dangerous MRSA infections among the general public, many people are wondering how to protect themselves.
MRSA in the Community
MRSA is a type of staph bacteria. "Many healthy people carry staph on their skin or in their noses," explained J. Rob Williams, MD, infectious disease specialist at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. "If the bacteria get under the skin through a cut or sore, they can cause an infection that appears as a pimple or boil." While staph infections usually can be treated, MRSA is troublesome because it can be resistant to some antibiotics.
Experts also are alarmed to see a certain MRSA strain becoming more common outside of healthcare settings--in locker rooms, health clubs and school gyms. This strain is called community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA.
There are two major ways people become infected with either type of MRSA:
- coming into contact with someone who is infected or who carries MRSA on their skin;
- coming into contact with MRSA on an object such as a door handle, floor, sink or towel that was touched by someone with a MRSA infection or who is a MRSA carrier.
Researchers have been trying to understand why CA-MRSA is so successful at spreading and causing infection. In a recent study reported in "Nature Medicine," one team of researchers found that CA-MRSA releases a substance that causes white blood cells to burst. This, in effect, does away with the body's best defense against the bacteria. Without white blood cells, the body cannot fight off the bacteria and, as a result, infection takes over. According to the study's authors, this finding could lead to more effective treatments.
According to Dr. Williams, there are ways to protect yourself from CA-MRSA:
- Wash hands often with soap and water.
- Keep cuts clean and covered.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
- If a wound appears infected, see your doctor.
FREE! Learn more about how to prevent MRSA. Call 1-888-LOURDES (568-7337) to get our publication, "MRSA: Stop the Spread."
J. Rob Williams, MD
For more information about Dr. Williams or another Lourdes expert, call 1-888-LOURDES (568-7337) or visit the Lourdes Health System Web site at www.lourdesnet.org and click on "Find a Physician."