Nursing Home MRSA Infection

More people are living in nursing homes in the United States than ever before, as our life expectancy grows ever longer thanks to the effects of modern medicine. The lion’s share of these nursing homes are excellent places for our elders to live, but problems can arise in even the most well-funded of managed care facilities with the most professional and compassionate medical staff. One of the biggest, rapidly growing problems that nursing home residents face is the spread of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterial infection that can cause serious harm to the elderly or anyone with a weakened immune system.

MRSA – The Super-Powered Staph Infection

At its core, MRSA is little more than a staph infection that’s grown too resistant to antibiotics to be treated quickly and easily. The explosion of MRSA on the scene is widely considered to be caused by over-prescription of antibiotics for illnesses or conditions that don’t actually respond to antibiotics like viral infections or the common cold; additionally, since a round of antibiotic treatments may not eradicate the entire bacterial colony causing an infection within a patient, those bacteria that survive the onslaught through a natural resistance pass on those characteristics to the next generation of bacteria – and since bacteria reproduce and grow at such a rapid rate, this leads to infections that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

There are two types of MRSA, one that’s healthcare-associated (HA-MRSA) and one that’s community associated (CA-MRSA). The latter is common in communities with lots of physical contact or little in the way of hygiene such as prison inmates living in crowded cells, child care workers who see a myriad of different children on a daily basis, or athletes such as wrestlers who engage in frequent physical contact as a result of their sport. In comparison, HA-MRSA is almost entirely relegated to patients undergoing long or extended care at hospitals and nursing homes, especially those who are recovering from surgery, require dialysis, or have intravenous tubing or catheters. HA-MRSA is a growing concern in managed care facilities, as these care centers lack the same stringent disinfectant and contamination response capabilities that hospitals have. This makes nursing home MRSA infections increasingly common.

Why It’s a Threat

Staph infections such as MRSA can be an inconvenience at berst, as the bacteria that cause all staph infections – including MRSA – are usually present on the skin of healthy adults. It’s only when an open cut or sore isn’t cleaned or protected from infection that these otherwise benign bacteria can travel into the skin and begin to grow. Many times, a staph or MRSA infection will not go deeper than the skin and only cause rashes that look similar to insect bites. Advanced staph infections in the skin can result in painful boils and abscesses that need to be drained by a doctor; however, if a staph infection such as MRSA travels deeper into the body, it can result in highly dangerous blood, joint or vital organ infections that can cause serious and even fatal complications.

Treating MRSA can also be difficult, thanks to its antibiotics-resistant nature. There are some non-Methicillin-based antibiotics that MRSA responds to, but medical professionals are highly cautious when treating a known antibiotic-resistant infection with additional antibiotics and provide the already hard-to-treat strain with even more protection in subsequent encounters. Some doctors will choose to treat MRSA by draining superficial abscesses close to the surface of the skin if possible, only reserving antibiotics for more serious, deeper bone or blood infections.