Antibiotic-resistant staph infection is an infection caused by a type of bacteria that cannot be killed by many commonly used antibiotics. This makes it hard to treat and stop the infection. The bacteria causing these infections are a type of Staphylococcus bacteria. They are often simply called staph. A commonly used name for resistant staph bacteria is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA (often pronounced as “mer-suh”).
MRSA infections happen most often in people who have a weakened immune system and have received healthcare in a hospital or other healthcare facility. Those infections are called healthcare-associated staph infections. An infection is said to be community associated when it happens even though you:
Staph bacteria are a common cause of skin infections. Most of the skin infections are minor (such as pimples and boils) and heal on their own without antibiotics. However, sometimes the bacteria infect the blood, urinary tract, lungs, or surgical wounds and cause very serious illness. The widespread use of antibiotics has caused some of these bacteria to change and become resistant to antibiotics. This can make it hard to treat these serious infections.
Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) skin infections may spread from:
CA-MRSA infections seem to be quite contagious. One study found that if one person has the germ, there is a 30% chance that others in the family have it. However, they may not have infections from the germ. They may just have it on their skin, where it can infect them if they get a cut. Or they can pass it on to someone else with a cut who comes in contact with their skin.
When staph infects the skin, it may look like a pimple or boil. The skin may be red, swollen, or painful. You may have pus or other drainage. The infection may look like a rash, with redness and oozing or crusting.
If the infection gets inside the body, especially if it gets into the bloodstream, the symptoms can be very different, depending on where the infection is. Symptoms may include:
The infection can lead to shock. If it cannot be treated, it may cause death.
If there is an outbreak of MRSA in the community, your healthcare provider will suspect that your infection may be MRSA. Pus from the infected wound will be tested to see if bacteria can be grown in the lab from the sample. If bacteria do grow in the lab, the bacteria will be tested to see which antibiotics can kill them.
If you have a pimple or boil that needs to be opened, your treatment may be draining of the sore by your healthcare provider. Drainage of skin boils or abscesses should be done only by a healthcare provider. Trying to treat open sores at home can cause serious health problems. It can also spread the infection.
Often antibiotics are not needed after the infection is drained. If an antibiotic is needed, the infection will be treated with the type of antibiotic that is most likely to kill the bacteria. If you are given an antibiotic, take all of the doses, even if the infection is getting better, unless your provider tells you to stop taking it. Not finishing your antibiotic may cause more resistant bacteria to develop. If the infection does not get better in 2 to 3 days with treatment, tell your provider.
If you are having any of the more serious symptoms listed above, you will stay at the hospital. You will get your antibiotic treatment by vein through an IV (intravenous line) until you are well enough to finish your antibiotics at home. You may be in the hospital 1 to 3 days or for a week or two, depending on how sick you were when your infection was diagnosed.
If other people you know or live with get the same infection, tell them to see their healthcare provider.
The rash or sore usually goes away within a few days of starting the antibiotic. If the sore was treated with draining, it may take several days or a week to heal, depending on how deep the sore was.
To help prevent skin infections, practice good hygiene:
It is also important to take antibiotics only when necessary for infections. Finish all antibiotics as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Don’t share antibiotics with other people, and don’t save them for another time.
To prevent spreading a staph infection to others, follow these steps: