Superbugs! They’re the hospital’s worst nightmare. They have the power to cause pneumonia, skin infections, urinary tract infections, and can even result in death. Most prevalent in hospitals, it’s not astonishing that healthcare workers must take serious precaution to prevent any spreads.
First, what are superbugs? Superbugs are bacteria, which are not easily killed by existing drugs due to antibiotic resistance. A notorious superbug is MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) also known as the infamous “flesh eating bacteria” which essentially causes infections in the skin. MRSA is resistant to amoxicillin, oxacillin, methicillin, and penicillin.
The infection starts with painful, swollen, and red bumps which appear on the skin surface. These bumps feel warm to the touch and contain pus (a thick yellowish opaque liquid which consists of dead white blood cells and bacteria, commonly produced in infected tissue). These bumps rapidly transcend into painful abscesses which require surgical draining. MRSA generally infects skin around open wounds, but may also infect undamaged, intact skin.
Occasionally, the bacteria remains confined to the skin surface, however has the ability to enter the body. The bacteria enters through and can potentially cause severe infections and trauma in the bloodstream, heart valves, joints, and lungs.
MRSA is contagious as well and is spread by skin contact. Thus, those who frequent crowded areas or play contact sports are more likely to contract the infection. [Schools and dormitories are also known for infection spreads]. Individuals may contract MRSA by simply sharing items (hairbrushes, razors, clothes) with an infected individual. A hospices crowded nature also warrants its prevalence in hospitals. While a primary cause for the spread is related to patients vulnerability, MRSA is just as capable of infecting healthy individuals (though infections are more commonly seen in the wounded).
While MRSA spreads in other environments, spreads are the most predominant are in nursing homes, hospitals, and regular clinics, where MRSA infects the vulnerable- immunocompromised patients. Invasive surgical procedures also contribute to higher risks of contracting MRSA. Reason being that a pathway to inside the body is exposed.
When a patient has contracted MRSA, they are also more susceptible to contracting other infections as well. MRSA may lead to sepsis if left untreated. Additionally, unaffected carriers of MRSA can still spread the infection to others (MRSA Carrier- One who carries MRSA bacteria in their bodies, which has had no affect on them).
How do healthcare workers prevent the spread?
In hospitals, patients with MRSA are placed in isolation units, where person contact is limited. Any visitors or workers visiting those in isolation must wear protective gear and follow strict hygiene guidelines. All physicians take precautions dealing with patients in general, but exercise stricter regulations when dealing with isolation patients. When treating patients with MRSA, physicians wear masks, gloves, and gowns to protect themselves.
MRSA is notorious for its resistant nature and various antibiotics have been proposed to prevent further spread of the infection. As previously mentioned, some procedures involve surgical draining which help deal with surface level infections.
Despite the scare of MRSA, researchers and hospitals continue working diligently to prevent the spread. As minors, what can we do to aid our healthcare workers? We can start by conducting our own research, taking necessary precautions, educating our peers, and contributing to fundraisers, all towards helping discover a cure!
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“MRSA Infection.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Oct. 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mrsa/symptoms-causes/syc-20375336.
Staff, Live Science. “MRSA Strikes More Hospital Patients, Study Finds.” LiveScience, Purch, 30 May 2013, http://www.livescience.com/36606-mrsa-infections-hospital-patients.html.