MRSA is a form of staph infection that is highly resistant to commonly used antibiotics. However, even on its own MRSA has its own variation of strains. Here is a look at some of the commonly used terms and types of MRSA.First, you will often hear two terms associated for patients with MRSA: colonization and infection. However, there is a major difference between the two types of patients.
A colonization of MRSA simply means that there is a presence of the bacteria in or on the host. The colony will be growing and multiplying, however, it does not do damage or invade the tissue. About one third of the population is colonized with MRSA. With MRSA, the anterior nasal passageways are the most common sites of colonies of the bacteria. Other sites include: open wounds, the respiratory tract, perineum, upper extremities, armpits, and the umbilical cord site in infants, the urinary tract, and axilla. While the colony will not harm the host directly, it is always transmittable to people that the host comes in close contact. At the same time, the host risks becoming infected with MRSA if they ever develop another risk factor, such as having an open wound, severe burn, or a surgery site.
With infection, the bacteria enter and multiply in the tissues of the host. The host will then present signs of infection, like swelling, pus, or fever. MRSA, if left untreated, can turn into severe and life-threatening infections like: bacteremia, endocarditis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, vascular line sepsis, and wound and surgical infections.
The other two commonly used terms with MRSA is community-acquired and hospital-acquired. These are actually two different strains of MRSA. Hospital-acquired MRSA infections are just that – infections that are caught by the patient during a stay in a hospital or other health care facility. If the person has not been hospitalized in the last year nor had another medical procedure requiring surgery, catheters, or IVs, it is considered to be a community-acquired MRSA. When examined, these two strains of MRSA are distinct.
However, it does not matter whether the infection of MRSA is community-acquired or hospital-acquired when it comes to treatment, nor should the infection control practices differ. Instead, treatment should be based on symptoms, how severe the infection is, and the drugs that the local strain is resistant to.
The problem with community-acquired MRSA infections is that, unlike the hospital-acquired variety, the patients afflicted with it are often otherwise healthy. This can lead to misdiagnose of the symptoms, and many times MRSA skin lesions are mistaken for spider bites. If left untreated, however, the infection can spread and affect other systems in the body, leading to more severe symptoms or even death. For that reason, patients and doctors should carefully watch any skin lesions that are not healing as they should, and culture any infections that are suspected to be caused by a staph infection.
Your doctor will be able to give you more information on your risks of becoming infected or colonized with either form of MRSA. Always have any unusual skin lesions or infections looked at to rule out MRSA.