Staph Infection and MRSA

Definition

Staph infections are caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Usually other than minor skin problems these bacteria do not pose any serious threat, however, the bacteria may penetrate deeper tissue and cause life threatening infections. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a particular strain of staphylococcus resistant to commonly used antibiotics used against staphylococcal infections. Usually people admitted in hospitals are infected by this strain. However, people may acquire infection by this strain from community through skin contact.

Although anyone can suffer from staph infection people with weak immune system, repeated hospitalization, dialysis patients, burn patients are more at risk of suffering from serious staph infection. Cephalosporin group of antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat staph infection, however, in case of infection by MRSA vancomycin is prescribed.

Symptoms

Staph infection may affect different organs of the body leading to wide variety of symptoms like :

  • The most common skin lesion due to staph infection is a boil, characterized by collection of pus around the hair follicle or oil gland. Usually boils occur in the armpit area or in the groin or on the buttock. Styes are also boil-like lesions occurring in the sweat or oil glands. Sometimes large deep seated abcess may develop known as carbuncles often with multiple openings. Diffuse lesions include :
    – Impetigo is characterized by painful rash in children and infants around the nose and mouth. The rashes may coalesce together and form large fluid filled lesions.
    – Cellulitis characterized deep seated infection with redness and swelling of the overlying skin most commonly occur on the lower legs and feet of elderly diabetic patients.
    – Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome occurring due to the toxin produced by staph.
  • Bacteremia is a condition when the bacteria enters the blood stream and infects different organs like the heart (endocarditis), lung, bone, joints (septic arthritis), brain and implanted devices like pacemaker, artificial joint or heart valves. Persistent high fever with nausea, vomiting, body ache and headache are the common presenting symptoms.
  • Toxic shock syndrome is a life threatening condition arising suddenly after surgery or use of certain type of tampons.
  • Food poisoning where staphylococcal toxin may lead to food poisoning and characterized by diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever.

MRSA also produce the same type of symptoms like other strains of staph, however, they are more likely to be resistant to the drugs used to treat other strains of staph.

Causes

Staphylococci, a gram stain positive bacteria, is usually present on the skin and nasal cavity of the healthy person and may or may not produce any infection. However, if the bacteria gain access inside the body through a cut, surgical wound or during implantation of artificial joints or valves it can cause a severe and widespread infection.

Due to inappropriate and irrational use of antibiotics strains of staph have become resistant to common antibiotics, these are known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The infection usually spreads through direct skin contact therefore proper hand washing is an effective mode of preventing staph infection.

Risk factors

  • Poor immunity.
  • Elderly people.
  • Diabetics.
  • Burns and recent surgery.
  • People undergoing dialysis, intravenous or urinary catheterization, artificial joint or heart valve replacement.

Treatment

Apart from drainage of pus, if any and removal of devices like catheters antibiotics are prescribed. Cephalosporins are most commonly prescribed antibiotics. MRSA infection only responds to vancomycin, however, resistant strains to it have also appeared. There are always concerns about new strains that are extremely drug-resistant. Patients therefore need to be aware of the importance of completing the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor.

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