Everyone has heard of MRSA but what exactly is it? MRSA (sometimes referred to as a ‘superbug’) stands for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus and is a bacterium from the staphylococcus aureus family. About one in three people carry it on the surface of the skin or in the nose without developing an infection.
However, if it gets into the body through a break in the skin, it can then go on to cause an infection. In extreme cases, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause more serious infections like septicaemia (blood poisoning) and heart valve infection (endocarditis). MRSA bacteria are resistant to some of the antibiotics that are commonly used to treat infection, including methicillin (a type of penicillin).
So far, experts have uncovered 17 different strains of MRSA, all with differing degrees of immunity to the effects of various antibiotics. Two particular strains, clones 15 and 16, are thought to be more transmissible than the others, and account for 96% of MRSA bloodstream infections in the UK.
So it’s a common bacterium that, in a healthy patient, will cause a minor throat infection and probably little else. But if the body’s immune system is weakened through other illness or as a result of medical treatment such as chemotherapy, then the bacteria can take hold and a body wide infection can spread quickly. Because MRSA is treatable through the use of antibiotics, the weaker strains of the bacterium die off relatively quickly. This leaves the stronger strains, such as clones 15 and 16, room to develop. Unfortunately, these more resilient strains are immune to the effects of the majority of antibiotics used as treatment against them and so can spread quickly.
MRSA thrives in unhygienic conditions and is passed on via physical contact. This can mean that the bacteria are passed on through contact with a patient suffering from an MRSA infection, via door handles and then on to previously uninfected patients. This is why hospitals now place such an emphasis on the use of antibacterial hand gels for staff and visitors. The Government is trying to improve overall standards of hygiene, with one of the most popular decisions being the reintroduction of ward matrons, with specific responsibility for cleanliness.
And that is the key word when talking about MRSA – cleanliness. If the standard of cleanliness in a ward is below par, it offers a breeding ground for a bacterium that is becoming increasingly resilient to man’s attempts at control. But the cleanliness of a ward is the direct responsibility of a hospital, which has a duty of care to provide a safe environment in which to treat vulnerable patients. If that duty of care has been allowed to slip, then there may be a point when it becomes classified as medical negligence.
Talking to an experienced solicitor who has a detailed knowledge of medical negligence claims can help you to navigate a complex and difficult legal landscape. Medical negligence claims can be protracted and fraught with problems, so the expertise of a solicitor well versed in the complexities of the law is essential. By highlighting the issue through a medical negligence claim, it can also encourage the hospital to re-examine its hygiene routines, hopefully preventing someone else from becoming just another statistic in what is ultimately a preventable problem.
About the Author:
1stclaims is run by a non-practising Personal Injury Solicitor with over 14 years personal injury claims experience.We deal in a range of claims, including medical negligence and compensation.