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Prevention and Treatment

Hospital-acquired infections

Hospitals have had infection control measures in place for many years. Additional strategies that have been proposed in an effort to prevent and control the spread of MRSA infections include active surveillance – screening for the detection of MRSA infection or colonisation in those admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) and other high risk areas, screening all people admitted to a health care facility, and/or periodically screening health care workers.

MRSA screening:

  • A swab of the inside of the nose may be used to screen healthy people to determine whether someone has been colonised with MRSA and is a carrier. MRSA can be detected from the swab by carrying out a culture to see if MRSA grows or by a rapid molecular test. Molecular testing does not grow the bacteria but detects their presence and antibiotic resistance by identifying the genes responsible for the methicillin resistance.

People with serious invasive MRSA infections, such as sepsis, are often treated with vancomycin. This is an antibiotic that must be administered intravenously (IV), often for several weeks. In most cases, vancomycin will help to eliminate the MRSA infection but it does not prevent/eradicate colonisation. There are increasing reports of infections that do not respond to vancomycin therapy with vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA), vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus (VISA) and vancomycin heteroresistant S. aureus (hVISA). There are a limited number of alternative antibiotics available to treat infections caused by the MRSA that are less susceptible to vancomycin. There is growing concern in the medical community that we will eventually run out of treatment options for antibiotic-resistant S. aureus.

Community-acquired infections

Preventive measures are the mainstay of infection control in the community. This includes wound management (covering and antibiotics where required) and hygiene measures (frequent hand washing and/or the use of alcohol-based hand gels). For more on the most effective way to wash your hands, visit the Better Health (Victorian Government) web site.

Many sports teams and institutions have put procedures in place to more rapidly recognise and address MRSA infections. Health care providers are being urged to order cultures and susceptibility testing routinely with outpatient skin and wound infections, to monitor the affected person carefully for effectiveness of treatment, and to be alert for the possibility of CA-MRSA.

Last Review Date: April 10, 2020