How do I know if I have MRSA?

Of course one of the biggest (and most relevant) MRSA questions asked by the general public is: “How do I know if I have MRSA?”.

Unfortunately, as I detailed in my last post “colonization vs. infection” the reality is you may already be carrying the superbug without even knowing it. If you are colonized at one or more body sites, the only way you’re going to be able to tell is by having a doctor or nurse take surface swab samples from your skin. These samples will be examined by a clinical microbiology lab using established techniques to detect the presence of MRSA and other potential pathogens. Usually, the only opportunity most people will get to find out if they are asymptomatically carrying MRSA is upon admission to the hospital for some type of invasive medical procedure. In that situation the risk of infecting yourself or someone else is simply too high to not check for the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in and on your skin. Even knowing the risk, however, many North American hospitals continue to resist active MRSA screening of patients due to perceived cost and time burdens. More on the importance of screening for MRSA colonization coming in a future post… Read More

MRSA – Colonization vs. Infection

One aspect of MRSA that is often not fully understood by the public is the concept of colonization vs. infection. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria that lives normally on human skin surfaces – in fact 40% of us have the little guys all over us right now as we sit here in front of our computers. MRSA, which is simply an antibiotic resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus, can also live on our skin for long periods or even permanently without us ever knowing it. This is called colonization, and depending on the population group/risk profile most studies show that 5-10% of us are carrying MRSA around with us wherever we go. As far as sites of colonization this bacteria can live on virtually any skin surface, but they really love the warmest, dampest, darkest areas they can find including the nose, throat, armpits, and various sites “south of the border”. It is widely accepted in the medical community that the nose represents the primary reservoir of S. aureus/MRSA colonization in humans, with the throat emerging as another important area and all other sites considered secondary. Read More

Lessons from across the pond – Part 2

Last week I outlined a grim situation that developed in the United Kingdom through the late 90’s and early 00’s. With the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains in UK hospitals, infections and deaths related to the bacteria MRSA were rising dramatically. Mostly because I didn’t want to write a novel in one post, I left off with a bit of a cliffhanger relating to what’s happened to UK MRSA trends since 2006/2007. To finish this story we have to understand not only what happened, but also why. Read More

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