Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How do you get a MRSA infection?"
My sister works in a nursing home and she said she?s afraid of getting MRSA. What exactly is this? Is it an infection? Is she in danger because of her job?
MRSA is a pathogenic bacteria that can infect humans. MRSA is an acronym that stands for Methicillin Resistent Staphylococcus Aureus. There are many different types of bacteria out there, and they are classified in many different ways. In very basic terms, one way to classify bacterial is by whether it is gram stain positive, or negative (aka gram positive, or gram neg). This has to do with the make-up of the cell wall of the bacteria. MRSA is gram positive. Gram positive bacteria can be further classified by their shape. Bacillus is the shape of a pill capsule, cocci are spherical, spirochetes are cork-screw shaped. MRSA is a cocci. Cocci can be staph (like a cluster of grapes) or strep (like a string of pearls). MRSA is a "staph"ylococcus. In a hospital setting, when bacteria from a patient is cultured to identify it, it is tested with multiple different antibiotics to see what kills it the best (this is called its "sensitivity"). Thus methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin (which is in the penicillin family). Like most bacterial infections, MRSA is transmitted through close contact. This is why nation wide there has been a large quality control push to encourage hand washing within hospitals to help prevent the spread of infections from one patient to another. She may be at increased risk of exposure to the bacteria due to her job, but that doesn't mean that she will necessarily get infected from it. All the more reason to be diligent about hand washing. If she has more questions about MRSA and the spread of infection, or if she thinks that she may be infected, I would recommend making an appointment with her primary care physician, or an infectious disease specialist. I hope that this information is helpful.