Medical Q&As

MRSA - what is it?

What is MRSA and how is it treated? My fiancée said he had it in his blood. Can you tell me more about it and if it can be treated as we are due to be married next year.

MRSA stands for methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus, also known as “staph”, is a bacterium commonly found on the skin of perfectly healthy people. Sometimes it can cause skin infections such as pimples, boils and impetigo. Very rarely it can cause blood infections or even get into the lungs and cause pneumonia. Methicillin is a form of penicillin and it is very effective against staphylococcus aureus. However, the acronym MRSA means that the strain of staphylococcus is resistant to treatment with methicillin. MRSA infection generally occurs in a hospital setting and tends to occur in elderly or very ill people. Those with open wounds or ulcers are particularly at risk in the hospital setting. Tubes or catheters going into the body also provide an opening for this particular bacterium to enter the body. MRSA infection rarely affects healthy people. I wonder why your fiancée was tested for it? Had he been in contact with somebody with the infection or had he been ill with the infection at some stage? Leaving those considerations to one side, it is possible for a healthy person to be colonised with MRSA. This means that they may carry the bacterium but are not infected by it. People who are colonised with MRSA do not normally need treatment. It is not unusual for healthy people to carry potentially harmful bacteria in their bodies and yet not suffer any ill effects. For example many people carry the bacterium that causes bacterial meningitis in their nostrils and yet never suffer any ill effects from this. Despite the questions I have raised I certainly do not think that there is any need for you to alter your wedding plans.