What is MRSA?
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacterium responsible for severe infections in humans which are very difficult to manage, treat and contain. Methicillin-resistant means the bacteria are not affected by the antibiotic, Methicillin which is used to treat them. When the bacteria are treated with antibiotics some of them may survive. The surviving bacteria change (mutate) and then develop resistance to the antibiotic and this is how MRSA bacteria have become immune to antibiotic treatment. MRSA infection occurs when the bacteria break through the skin surface, enter the body and multiply.
Symptoms and MRSA Infection
The NHS reports that one in three of us carry the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on our skin or nose without developing an infection. This is termed as being ‘colonised by the bacteria’. People can carry the bacteria from hours and days to weeks and months and be completely unaware of it as it causes no harm, unlike those who become infected with MRSA.
Once the bacteria have entered the body; at the point of infection, MRSA symptoms will occur. Although these vary, generally redness and swelling will be present at the infection site. Skin infections include boils, abscesses, sties, cellulitis and impetigo. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria entering the bloodstream can cause septicaemia, meningitis, pneumonia, endocarditis (infection of the heart lining), osteomylitis (infection of the bone marrow) and other severe and potentially life threatening infections.
Spread of MRSA
Infection is particularly problematic in hospitals as the bacteria have opportunity to enter the skin through wounds or invasive devices such as catheters. Colonised patients can transfer the bacteria to a wound located on themselves. MRSA can spread through patients or staff being either colonised or contaminated and the super bug can then be transferred from patient to patient, through staff, equipment or simply by environment. Some strains of MRSA have transferred between hospitals and are known as epidemic MRSA or EMRSA for short.
MRSA is most common in hospitals (due to there being a point of entry for the bacteria, older, weaker and sicker people and a higher number of people so the bacteria can spread), it can occur anywhere. Indeed over recent years the number of MRSA outbreaks within the community has increased.
Additional factors which increase the risk of contracting MRSA include; participation in contact sports, sharing sports equipment, visiting public areas such as shopping centres, gyms and leisure centres, using public telephones and public transportation, low immunity, cancer, diabetes, sharing personal hygiene items, using hot tubs and poor skin hygiene. In addition to hospitals, living or working in close proximity to others such as in day care centres, prisons, homeless shelters, military quarters etc also increases the risk.
MRSA can survive on any surface or object for a long period of time as well as spreading through fabrics; clothing, towels, sheets etc.
Managing and restricting the growth and spread of MRSA
Antimicrobial solutions which inhibit the growth of bacteria are used to restrict and manage the spread of MRSA.
Since the epidemic of MRSA (EMRSA-15 and EMRSA-16) in the 1990’s, hospitals have introduced stricter measures to minimise the risk of MRSA infection spreading. Steps have include staff being meticulous in washing their hands and using antibacterial gel before and after coming into contact with patients and wearing disposable gloves and aprons. Visitors are also encouraged to wash their hands and use the antibacterial solutions provided. Surfaces and equipment are also now subjected to thorough cleaning with the use of antibacterial agents.
Applying antimicrobial solutions to surfaces, objects, fabric and clothing in all public places will work positively to eliminate the growth, spread and any future epidemic of MRSA.
Recent studies have shown that many antimicrobial solutions actually cause more harm than good as long term use causes a build up of the toxic chemicals in which they contain. There is a strong need for an antimicrobial solution which not only inhibits the growth and spread of MRSA but importantly is non toxic to humans and spans the life of the product or surface to which it is applied.