MRSA: The Flesh Eating Bacteria

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MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA is a bacterium that is very different from other types of germs that cause infections. MRSA is often referred to as the ‘flesh eating’ bacteria. It sounds very scary, and it can be, but more often that not MRSA is treatable and not life threatening.

Staphylococcus is actually a very common type of bacteria. Most people (it’s estimated 33%) carry it in their nose or on their skin and it causes no problems. What’s different about MRSA, is that it is resistant to several types of antibiotics.

Anyone – both children and adults — can get MRSA on their body from contact with an infected wound or by sharing personal items, such as towels, razors or items that have touched infected skin. MRSA is common in places where people are in close contact like schools and daycares. It’s also prevalent when people share equipment, like in sports. Good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing with warm soap and water, can decrease the spread of MRSA.

MRSA is typically diagnosed when a tissue sample or secretions from the nose are evaluated for signs of the bacteria. MRSA infections on the skin can appear as a small red bump that looks a lot like a pimple. People often think a MRSA bump is a bug bite. Sometimes the area can be warm and tender to the touch. If the infection is mild, it can sometimes go away on its own, but, this can change by becoming more serious. For milder cases, a physician may prescribe antibiotic cream to be put into your nose or on your skin.

Once you’re diagnosed with MRSA, you never completely get rid of it. Because the bacteria colonize (if you test positive for MRSA, that means it has colonized) and stay present in the body, you may have MRSA permanently, but, that may not necessarily make you sick. This means you can be a carrier of MRSA, and spread it to other people.  Another reason it is important to treat MRSA is to avoid spreading it to other people through direct contact.

If MRSA goes undetected and untreated, problems can definitely arise. Serious infections can cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, surgical wound infections and in very serious cases, can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, which is where the ‘flesh-eating’ part of the infection is known.  Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious skin infection that spreads very quickly.

If you have a red bump or obvious looking infection of your skin, you cannot tell just by looking at it if it is MRSA. Never try to treat a wound or sore by yourself, and never pop a red bump on your skin. Cover possible skin infections with a clean, dry bandage until you can see a physician or health care provider.


The blog is written by Lisa Dawson, the Director of Marketing at The Colony ER Hospital.

Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on The Colony Emergency Room Hospital or any one of our concierge-level, freestanding emergency facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.