What is MRSA?

Watch this video message on the NHS Choice website with the Lead Microbiologist from the Department of Health explaining what causes MRSA, what happens when you have it and how hospital staff and visitors can help prevent infection.

What is MRSA?

Patient and visitor information


You will probably have heard about MRSA from the newspapers or television. This information is intended to provide information about MRSA and help you to understand what it is and why it is particularly important in the hospital environment.

What is MRSA?Show [+]Hide [-]

MRSA stands for Meticillin (M) Resistant (R) Staphylococcus (S) Aureus (A). It is called this because it is resistant to a type of penicillin (an antibiotic) and some other antibiotics that are commonly used to treat infections.

MRSA is not a ‘Superbug’. It is a type of common bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, which lives on the body of many people without harmful effects, a process known as colonisation. Staphylococcus aureus lives harmlessly on the skin and in the nose of about 1in 3 people.

Usually people who carry the MRSA do not require treatment. A few people may suffer from boils or wound infections because of the bacteria but the infection is usually easily treated with antiseptics or simple antibiotics.

MRSA is no more likely to cause infection than ordinary Staphylococcus aureus but if it does different antibiotics will be used to treat the symptoms.

Where is MRSA found?Show [+]Hide [-]

MRSA can be found anywhere on your body but most commonly in the nose, groin and throat. It may also be found in areas of damaged skin such as cuts, surgical wounds, burns and leg ulcers. This is why we routinely swab these sites when patients are admitted to the Trust.

People who have MRSA do not look or feel any different from others. A person is found to have MRSA when the bacterium is detected from a swab or other specimen taken from the person.

How does a person get MRSA?Show [+]Hide [-]

Sometimes it is impossible to know where a person acquired MRSA, because it can be found in the community as well as in hospitals. However, we do know that it can be acquired by contact with another person with MRSA. This is why the importance of good hand washing practices are emphasised for staff, visitors and patients.

Why is MRSA a concern in hospitals?Show [+]Hide [-]

People who are admitted to hospital may be at a greater risk of developing any infection. This means extra precautions need to be taken to protect patients from acquiring bacteria such as MRSA. This Trust has a policy to actively screen patients for MRSA.

Can it be treated (eradicated)?Show [+]Hide [-]

If you have MRSA on your skin, in your nose or throat you may receive treatment in the form of antiseptic body and hair wash, antibiotic nasal cream, and throat spray. This process is called ‘eradication’. The need for this will be discussed on an individual basis.

If you have a wound infection or infection of any other kind with MRSA you may be treated with antibiotics. Treatment is usually successful but in some patients MRSA can persist, or can return again weeks or months later. This should not delay discharge or affect everyday life.

What precautions are taken to prevent other patients acquiring MRSA?Show [+]Hide [-]

Patients with MRSA may be moved to a single room or nursed in a bay with other patients with MRSA, in order to prevent MRSA from spreading to other patients. Staff will wear gloves and aprons when caring for these patients.

Most patients who are colonised with MRSA do not usually have to stay any longer in hospital than they would do normally.

What effect could there be on family and friends?Show [+]Hide [-]

MRSA does not harm healthy people, pregnant women, children OR babies. MRSA may affect people who have long-term health problems. If in doubt about whether a person with health problems should visit a patient with MRSA, ask the nurse in charge of the ward before to visiting.

We do not ask visitors to wear gloves and aprons but we do ask them to wash their hands (or use the alcohol based hand gel) before and after visiting.

For further information please refer to our "Ten Top Tips".

Precautions on dischargeShow [+]Hide [-]

There is no need for a person with MRSA to avoid contact with other people, including children of any age after leaving hospital, or stop any previous hobbies/interests. Your General Practitioner [GP] will be told if you have MRSA as this may influence future treatment.

Precautions taken on re-admission to hospitalShow [+]Hide [-]

If you have had MRSA and are re-admitted to any hospital you (or a relative) should tell the nursing staff. You may be nursed in a single room, isolated, and specimens taken to check for the presence of MRSA.

Further informationShow [+]Hide [-]

If you would like any further information, or have specific questions about MRSA please ask the Ward or Department staff. The Infection Control Team is always happy to talk to patients, relatives or carers who have particular concerns about MRSA. Alternatively, you can contact one of our Infection Control nurses via Switchboard on (0191) 223 6161.

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