“Superbug” MRSA… The Real Bed Bug

English: A ruptured MRSA cyst.

English: A ruptured MRSA cyst. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jenn Hulse (1 PM Micro, but comes to the 11 AM class because she is a morning person) found this article about community acquired methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is the one you can get from the Grumbacher Fitness Center exercise equipment. MRSA is something that pops up pretty frequently around here. Here’s Jenn to scare you:

A staph infection is caused by the antibiotic-resistant “superbug” called MRSA. Recently, it has become a common problem on college campuses. This health issue should act as a constant reminder to properly wash hands and keep up with personal hygiene practices. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was first found in hospital settings but the MRSA strain is on the rise on college campuses because it is a setting where many things are shared between students and faculty.  Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are commonly found on the skin or in the nose of about 1/3 of the general population, according to MAYO Clinic. However, not everyone gets sick from the bacterium. The problem only starts when the bacterium gets under the skin through a cut or abrasion. It then causes an infection that can look just like a common pimple or boil. Students who have this type of infection should be sure to cover the wound and prevent it from spreading. The incidence of staph infections at Notre Dame is not an “outbreak,” because there is no traceable common origin of the infections.

In order to treat the infection with antibiotics, first doctors have to find the source of the infection. Some students’ infections have been traced back to not washing their sheets on a consistent basis. Sharing a dorm room and not practicing good hygiene makes college kids more susceptible to staph infections. Shaving can also put people at a higher risk for staph infection, especially if the razor breaks the skin. Washing hands, wiping down shared objects, cleaning sheets and drying sheets in a very hot dryer can prevent most staph infections.

College workout facilities and locker rooms are doing what they can to minimize the spread of infections. Staph bacteria can live on inanimate surfaces and objects for hours. This makes cleaning extremely important. Antibacterial wipes and antibacterial cleaning agents are great ways to prevent infections.

One of the causes of MRSA is the overuse or misuse of antibiotics. This has been found to help germs become bolder and stronger which makes it very difficult to treat the resistant infection. Three different students could all have MRSA but they might all be on different antibiotics for treatment. The only common thing between them is that penicillin doesn’t work at all. The best initial treatment for staph is a hot, wet compress in attempts to drain the infection before it has the ability to attach to the body. If you are already experiencing an infection it is important to see a doctor. If the pimple-like infection gets worse or spreads throughout the body that is an immediate sign to go see a professional either in the campus health services center or a general doctor.

CA-MRSA, or community acquired methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, can be potential fatal but it is very rare in college age kids. Most deaths related to S. aureus occur when individuals already have a weakened immune system or if the infection becomes internalized in the individual’s bloodstream or joints.

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on November 20, 2012, in Guest Post, Wash your hands!. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. MRSA is definitely a hot topic in college and in healthcare. Any good healtcare facility will be drilling staff on the prevention of MRSA and other facility-acquired infections. Unfortunately, a big problem with dermatologic MRSA is it may be easily dismissed as “just a pimple.” I hadn’t heard of the warm wet compress idea as a first line of treatment. I think most people infected with MRSA don’t know about it until its more systemic as cellulitis or worse.
    I was just reading this article on genetic tracking of a MRSA strain in the UK:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2232720/Doctors-stop-hospital-outbreak-MRSA-cracking-genetic-code-tracking-health-care-worker-carrying-bacteria.html

  2. I post links from here to my Twitter and Facebook feeds, so people besides the BIO230 students can be forced to see what’s going on in the World of Micro. Via FB came this comment from a former student:

    There’s a patient on one of our units at the hospital with MRSA, and one of my co-workers was helping put his facial piercings in WITHOUT WEARING GLOVES. God I almost smacked her.

  3. Don’t open the Pandora’s Box of nursing horror stories. It’s a scary, rage-filled place.

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