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Diseases & Topics

MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

Staphylococcus aureus, often called "staph", is a common type of bacteria that can be found in the nose and on the skin of people. Approximately one out of three people have staph in their nose or on their skin; these people are said to be colonized with staph. That is, staph lives on their bodies but does not cause infection.

However, some staph bacteria can cause infections if they get into the body through a break in the skin, such as a cut or abrasion. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, are staph bacteria that are not easily killed by a number of antibiotics. MRSA may be spread from a person with an MRSA infection to another person, most often through direct physical contact such as contact with a draining lesion. MRSA can also be spread by touching objects that have been soiled with drainage from an infected wound, such as furniture, bandages, towels, athletic or medical equipment, or by sharing personal items such as razors.

Outbreaks of MRSA have occurred in healthcare settings, homes, prisons, daycare centers, on sports teams, and in other settings where people have close contact or share equipment and personal items.

In community settings, MRSA most often causes skin infections in an otherwise healthy person. Learn more about Community-associated MRSA.

In healthcare settings (such as hospitals and nursing homes), MRSA can cause more severe or even life-threating infections, such as bloodstream infections, joint infections and pneumonia. MRSA can be passed from one person to another through contaminated surfaces such as bed rails, bathroom fixtures, medical equipment and linens. MRSA can also be passed on the hands of doctors, nurses, other healthcare providers and visitors. Individuals most likely to get MRSA infections in a healthcare setting are those who have other health issues, and those who have prolonged stays in a hospital or long-term care facility. Learn more about healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

To prevent the spread of MRSA, practice good hand hygiene; cover cuts, scrapes, and draining lesions; and avoid sharing of personal items such as towels or razors. Healthcare facilities should also ensure careful cleaning of patient or client rooms and medical equipment. Gym equipment should also be carefully and regularly cleaned.

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