Staff Infection – The MRSA Bug

Staff infection, (more correctly known as staph infection or staphylococcus aureus) is a particular group of bacteria that causes multiple diseases through the infection of various tissues in the body. There are over thirty different types of staff infection, and the diseases can then range in severity from the mild to the potentially fatal. The name is derived from the Greek word ‘staphyle’ meaning grapes, due to the fact that the responsible bacteria look like a bunch of grapes under the microscrope.

Interestingly the bacteria can actually be found on around 25% of all healthy adults on the skin and in the nose but often does not cause disease. One cause for the disesases is then when the skin in this area becomes broken or damaged allowing the bacteria to ‘flood in’ and overcome the body’s natural defences. Certain individuals are also at particular risk of staff infection: newborn babies, women who are breastfeeding, and those who already suffer from chronic illness. Intravenous drug uses and those with catheters and other surgical incisions are also at high risk, as are those with a lowered immune system.

Staff infection normally has the symptoms of localised pus, abscesses, boils or furuncle. The area may also be red and swollen. The specific symptoms of the disease caused by this infection will then vary. Commonly the damaged skin itself will develop to impetigo (which is a crusting of the skin) or cellulitis (which is a skin infection similar to but less severe than gangrene).

When bacteria enters the blood stream and spreads to other organs more serious infections will occur. This is known as ‘sepsis’ (the spread of bacteria into the blood stream) which can then cause damage to any organ it reaches leading to heart failure, osteomyelities (inflammation of the bones), circulatory collapse and many other complications. Saphylococcal food poisoning is an infection of the bowels that exhibits nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and perspiration among other things. A common symptom/complication of all staff infections is ‘scalded skin syndrome’ – a potentially serious effect of the bacteria damaging protein that produces a special ‘cement’ that holds the layers of skin together which can result in a burned appearance.

Various forms of staff infection will obviously be treated differently as the condition varies so largely from individual to individual. As a general rule, minor skin infections will be treated with antibiotic ointments such as non-prescription triple-antibiotic mixtures. Oral antibiotics might be prescribed for more serious skin conditions such as cellulitis. Simply following the course of antibiotics prescribed and completing the prescription as per the doctor’s instructions will help most cases. Oral antibiotics might also be used with some of the progressed forms of staff infection.

Some forms of staff infection however are resistant to antibiotic. This is known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus – or more commonly, MRSA. This is the ‘hospital virus’ which spreads in hospitals due to the close proximity of people, many of whom will have open wounds (even ‘bed sores’), instances of the staff bacteria and even staff infections. It is known as a ‘superbug’ due to its having become resistant to antibiotics making it very difficult to treat.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 12% of MRSA infections are community associated (they are also common in old people’s home) but this number varies. Fortunately most MRSA infections are the more superficial kind of skin infection. However they are difficult to treat and can still progress into blood, bone or organ infections if left.

Normally if you contract MRSA you will be moved to a separate room. Here you will be treated with a variety of different antibiotics that the disease has yet to develop an immunity to. These include vancomycin, teicoplanin and linezolid which will normally be injected.

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