I just found out that I am infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). My husband seems more troubled by this news than I am. He’s afraid he’ll catch it one day and suffer the consequences. Can you help us better understand what MRSA is and explain how dangerous it is for sick and healthy people alike?
Over the past years, bacteria have increasingly become resistant to antibiotics. This is the case with “golden staph” (Staphylococcus aureus), strains of which have become resistant to methicillin, an antibiotic closely resembling cloxacillin. MRSA first invaded Montreal hospitals, gradually spread to the other hospitals in Quebec and is now proliferating outside the hospital environment. This bacterium is neither dangerous nor aggressive in healthy people. They may become carriers (usually through the nasal glands) if they come into contact with infected patients, but they themselves do not get sick and the condition is not necessarily permanent. However, the situation is different for sick persons who have recently had surgery, and whose surgical wounds have become contaminated with MRSA. The resulting infection is more difficult to eliminate because of its resistance to conventional antibiotics. The wound will still heal, however, if the individual is treated with antibiotics that are effective against MRSA. Although MRSA is resistant to multiple medications and has even been termed a “super bug,” there are still antibiotics that can be used to treat it.
In the cystic fibrosis population, it is difficult to judge the significance of bronchial colonization with MRSA. Some individuals are only temporarily infected, while others seem to have a chronic infection. It is not yet clear whether MRSA is more dangerous or likely to cause severe disease than methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus. However, when there is co-infection of MRSA with Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Burkholderia cepacia, the second bacterium, not MRSA, appears to be the major cause of illness and deteriorating health.