Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans. It is also called multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (ORSA). MRSA is any strain of Staphylococcus aureus that has evolved resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, which include the penicillins (methicillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin. etc.) and the cephalosporins. Strains unable to resist these antibiotics are classified as methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, or MSSA. The development of such resistance does not cause the organism to be more intrinsically virulent than strains of Staphylococcus aureus that have no antibiotic resistance, but resistance does make MRSA infection more difficult to treat with standard types of antibiotics and thus more dangerous.
MRSA is especially troublesome in hospitals and nursing homes, where patients with open wounds, invasive devices, and weakened immune systems are at greater risk of infection than the general public. The CDC offers suggestions for preventing the contraction and spread MRSA infection which are applicable to those in community settings, including incarcerated populations, childcare center employees, and athletes. To prevent MRSA infection, individuals should regularly wash hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, keep wounds clean and covered, avoid contact with other people’s wounds, avoid sharing personal items such as razors or towels, shower after exercising at athletic facilities (including gyms, weight rooms, and school facilities), shower before using swimming pools or whirlpools, and maintain a clean environment.