MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that has developed antibiotic resistance, first to penicillin in 1947, and later to methicillin. Popularly termed a "superbug", it was first discovered in Britain in 1961 and is now widespread.
While an MRSA colonisation in an otherwise healthy individual is not usually a serious matter, infection with the organism can be life-threatening to patients with deep wounds, catheters or drips; or as a secondary infection in patients with compromised immune systems.
Recently in the USA there have been increasing reports of outbreaks of MRSA colonisation through skin contact in locker rooms and gymnasiums, even among healthy populations.
From the US CDC's MRSA Fact Sheet:
- "How are staph and MRSA spread? - Staph bacteria and MRSA can spread among people having close contact with infected people. MRSA is almost always spread by direct physical contact, and not through the air. Spread may also occur through indirect contact by touching objects (i.e., towels, sheets, wound dressings, clothes, workout areas, sports equipment) contaminated by the infected skin of a person with MRSA or staph bacteria."
- "Are staph and MRSA infections treatable? - Yes. Most staph bacteria and MRSA are susceptible to several antibiotics. Furthermore, most staph skin infections can be treated without antibiotics by draining the sore. However, if antibiotics are prescribed, patients should complete the full course and call their doctors if the infection does not get better. Patients who are only colonized with staph bacteria or MRSA usually do not need treatment." [emphasis added]