MRSA In Our Hospitals, Communities And Homes

By Dr. Richard E. Busch III

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus ) is often called the "Super-Bug". MRSA is not a virus, it can be many strains of S. aureus bacteria and it is antibiotic resistant. A major concern about MRSA is the limited options for treatment, and now some sources of MRSA are outside of the hospital walls. Many studies are projecting over six million cases in 2010 - with a death rate of over 30% percent. MRSA could be considered a global plague. Most of us have heard about MRSA, and you may know someone who has been infected, and you may even know of someone who has died. There have been studies that have shown that 80% of tested common surfaces in hospitals, such as doors, walls, and elevator buttons, had evidence of MRSA. Some studies show a contamination rate as high as 64% of hospitals. MRSA is most likely to be contracted from hospitals (hospital-acquired infection). There is a continued effort to develop more antibiotics, but it is difficult because of its evolving resistance to more and more drugs.

MRSA was detected around 1945 (correlating with the development of penicillin), and it has become a significant problem in hospitals and nursing homes over the last 40 years. Obviously, many of the patients in these facilities are sick and their immune systems weakened and vulnerable. Those would include anyone who is in a hospital for surgery. MRSA in the early stages was treated by penicillin; however it soon tested resistant to penicillin, as well as many other antibiotics. MRSA cases identified in a healthcare setting are referred to as healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA).

A relatively new source of transmission of MRSA is the use computer keyboards since the implementation of computer technology in healthcare facilities. Proper hand-washing procedures and hygiene is critical since MRSA is predominately spread by hand-to-hand contact.

CA-MRSA (community-associated MRSA), have been identified since late 1990's. It appeared to have no relationship to the healthcare-associated MRSA strain, as there were no risk factors involved such as healthcare settings and the weak and immune compromised. CA-MRSA is concentrated in people that are in groups or group areas such locker rooms, contact sports, gyms, prisoners and military recruits. Although anyone can carry MRSA, (the majority of research shows that MRSA occurs mostly in our noses) and it can enter the body through injuries, incisions and open sores, then there it can develop into a fatal infection. Many people that have MRSA do not have symptoms, and to avoid contamination always properly wash your hands, bandage your cuts and scrapes, and never use others' personal things such as razors and towels. MRSA can be also picked up from contaminated keyboards, walls, floors, door knobs, as well as direct physical contact.

Many times a bump on the skin will be dismissed as a spider bite. If it doesn't get better in 3-4 days and you have a fever and flu-like symptoms, this could be MRSA. Symptoms of MRSA can be fever, swelling, heat and pain around a wound or injury, headache, and fatigue. More severe conditions are infections in the bloodstream, joints, bones, surgical incisions, heart and lungs

MRSA can even infect our companion animals, and there is now a risk for our pets when they have surgery at the veterinary clinic. It is not determined if human contamination from pets is a risk for people. There are new strains of MRSA that seem to be crossing the human and animal barrier. Reporting of infections in horses began to increase, and studies are showing that the infection can be passed from horses to humans and vice versa. Five years ago in the Netherlands, and then more recently in Canada, there was a strain of MRSA (ST398) found in pigs. Since then, this strain has been found in the US, in both farmers and pigs. It isn't certain that this strain will cause human problems, and it isn't certain if it will affect our food supply. Should the ST398 be found to infect humans and/or contaminate our food supply, this brings into play and whole new set of problems and "what-ifs".

If you are contemplating surgery, most especially elective surgery, for conditions such as lumbar and cervical disc problems, you should research all your options and investigate nonsurgical treatment options, because one major surgery risk is the MRSA contamination of hospitals. Many hospitals do not screen for MRSA, although screening could be done. However, if a patient tested positive for MRSA, even without symptoms, they would be isolated and this could lead to longer hospital stays. From there we could have overloaded, understaffed facilities with less careful hand washing, and more exposure to infectious people. - 32188

About the Author:

Sign Up for our Free Newsletter

Enter email address here