Prevention and Treatment
Hospitals have had infection control measures in place for many years. Additional strategies that have been proposed in an effort to prevent and control the spread of MRSA infections include active surveillance – screening for the detection of MRSA infection or colonization in those admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) and other high risk areas, screening all people admitted to a health care facility, and/or periodically screening health care workers.
- A nasal culture (collected by inserting a swab inside the nose) is used to screen healthy people to determine whether someone has been colonized with MRSA and is a carrier. If S. aureus are present, susceptibility testing is performed to determine whether the strain is MRSA.
- Nasal swabs may also be collected to detect MRSA colonization based on rapid molecular tests, which do not grow the bacteria but detect their presence and antibiotic resistance by identifying the genes responsible for the methicillin resistance.
Currently, people with serious invasive MRSA infections, such as sepsis, are usually treated with vancomycin. This is an antibiotic that must be administered intravenously (IV), often for several weeks. In most cases, vancomycin will help to eliminate the MRSA infection, but it does not prevent/eradicate colonization. Since 2002, a few cases of vancomycin-resistant strains of S. aureus (VRSA) have been identified. There are a limited number of alternative antibiotics available to treat infections caused by vancomycin-resistant MRSA. The number of these cases is expected to increase, and there is growing concern in the medical community that we will eventually run out of treatment options for antibiotic-resistant S. aureus.
Infection control has become the primary focus of MRSA containment. National efforts are underway to raise awareness in the community about the existence of MRSA and to encourage preventive measures, such as covering wounds and better hygiene (such as routine cleaning of shared equipment, frequent hand washing and/or the use of alcohol-based hand gels). For more on the proper way to wash your hands, visit this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site.
Many sports teams and institutions have put procedures in place to more rapidly recognize and address MRSA infections. Health care providers are being urged to order cultures and susceptibility testing routinely with outpatient skin and wound infections, to monitor the affected person carefully for effectiveness of treatment, and to be alert for the possibility of CA-MRSA. Outbreaks of CA-MRSA are being investigated and traced back to their source in order to identify the cause, to determine whether other people may have unrecognized MRSA infections or colonization, and to reduce the potential for additional cases.