IDSA Targets Skin-Infecting Superbug

New guidelines for treating bacterial superbug MRSA

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A potentially deadly skin infection commonly linked to hospital stays is the subject of new guidelines submitted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA pronounced mer-sah) is a bacterial skin infection that kills 18,000 people a year. The Infectious Diseases Society of America recently released the first-ever official guidelines as to how to properly treat the infection.

Initially the infection was only a problem in health care facilities but cases of infection have extended outside of hospitals and clinics. MRSA is known as a "superbug" due to its ability to resist antibiotics. It is the cause of 60 percent of skin infections found in emergency rooms and is commonly mistaken for spider bites. In its invasive form, the bacterium can lead to pneumonia and when it enters the bloodstream and central nervous system, it even lead to death.

Catherine Liu, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, calls the new guidelines a "living document," one that will continue to grow with the formation of new antibiotics and treatment findings. The hope is that providing a basic framework of how to treat infections will help physicians immensely in treating MRSA-infected patients.

One of the problems in fighting such an antibiotic-resistant bug is the fact that overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to the bacterium developing immunity. Uncomplicated skin infections should be treated without antibiotics as the first choice.

Just in the last 15 years, community-associated strains of MRSA (CA-MRSA) have been becoming more prevalent. CA-MRSA can be spread in locker-rooms, dorms, prisons and in homes. Infection occurs from either direct contact with the infected individual or indirectly by objects used by that person, like a towel for instance. Painful red bumps appear on the skin, usually where there is an abrasion on the skin or where hair is present.

Skin infections are not the biggest danger, however. When the bacteria cross the skin barrier and enter the bloodstream, infection can be fatal. Almost 100,000 people experienced invasive MRSA infections in 2005 and more than 18,000 of those individuals died. 1 in 7 of those infections were contracted outside of hospital.

Good hygiene is the number one defense against MRSA infection. The new guidelines crafted by the Infectious Disease Society of America include information on how to manage skin infections, directions on when to use antibiotics, how to treat invasive infections and how to treat newborns with MRSA.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 6, 2011
Last Updated:
January 7, 2011