What is MRSA?

The Ongoing Battle against MRSA, and how it relates to Contact Sports

What is MRSA?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococci Aureus (MRSA) are strains of the normally harmless bacteria, Staphylococcus Aureus, which is present in the noses and on the skin of approximately 30% of the population. Unfortunately these MRSA types have become immune to the most common antibiotics used to fight staph infections. These bacteria have evolved by not being destroyed; and by living they have become resistant to many drugs and therefore stronger and harder than ever to fight. There are still drugs available to treat people infected with MRSA, but the list is getting shorter and the best way to wage the battle is through preventive measures.

There are two types of MRSA; Health care associated (HA-MRSA) that is contracted through hospitals, nursing homes, any health care facility or treatment center. The most common procedures to be watchful for HA-MRSA contamination are: dialysis and invasive operations including surgery where intravenous tubing and catheters are involved.

Another form is known as CA-MRSA or community associated, and is spread by person to person, through skin to skin contact of seemingly healthy people. The highest risk groups are wrestlers, all contact sport participants, child care workers, inmates in over-crowded jails, people living in close quarters with many others and male homosexuals. Less than 2% of people carry the MRSA type of bacteria, but if it is present and comes in contact with another person’s sore or open wound can be serious. 

Complications of both types of MRSA can affect the blood, the lungs, the heart and bones and joints. There are over 95,000 new cases of MRSA in the United States annually and over 19,000 related deaths. 86% of those cases are the HA-MRSA type, but 14% are CA-MRSA.

What can parents and coaches do?

The most effective way to fight CA-MRSA is through prevention. The best way to prevent contamination is by education. Parents and coaches can make sure participating students in contact sports know about MRSA, how to recognize it, and how to prevent it.

The best preventive methods are:

  • Showering immediately after games, matches and practices. That means using soap on all skin surfaces for at least 15 seconds.
  • Only wearing athletic apparel once before laundering with hot water and bleach and drying thoroughly in a hot dryer.
  • Avoid sharing towels, sheets, razors, clothing, or athletic equipment with anyone else.
  • Wash hands frequently with the 15 second soap rule and/or carry hand sanitizers (with at least 62% alcohol content) to playing area for use. Use paper disposable towels.
  • Cover any open sores, cuts or wounds with clean, sterile, dry covering immediately.

What Advances are being made?

Testing procedures to identify MRSA have become more conclusive and give faster results than ever before. They still use the laboratory tests that grow cultures for 48 hours, but now there are other tests that give results in one to two hours. In 2012, a British study of using DNA testing of babies for MRSA and reducing outbreaks was very successful. Also many pharmaceutical companies are developing tests for early detection. For several decades scientists have been working on an MRSA vaccine but have not yet been successful. 

Dr. Robert Daum, the first physician to identify the community associated strain of MRSA in 1990 is working on an approach that will use T-cells in the immune systems instead of the antibody testing that is proving frustrating. He is estimating the US is at least still five years away from any definitive test programs, so prevention is still the key.

Antimicrobial Copper, a copper alloy of solid uncoated materials like brass or bronze is being studied by the Department of Defense as an effective destroyer of the bacteria. Studies have been made from 2007 through 2010 by the Telemedicine and Advanced Technical Research Center (TATRC) and the US Army Medical Research and Material Command (USAMRMC). 

Intensive Care Units (ICUs) of hospitals replaced commonly touched surfaces with Antimicrobial Copper for almost four years before analyzing results. In the rooms with the copper, bacteria were fewer by 83%, and hospital affiliated infections including MRSA were down by 58.1%. These figures are extremely optimistic not only for health facilities but for sporting equipment and food preparation areas as well.

Copper alloy surfaces do not scratch or wear away. Three years later after the installation in the test areas, it is still effective in killing and preventing bacterial growths. It is exciting to think of how Antimicrobial Copper can be used in the future.

What steps should be taken if one suspects MRSA?

mrsa JawlineSigns of MRSA at first may look like acne, boils or rashes. If the reddish pimples or bumps becomes open, oozing, swollen or warm to the touch, see the doctor immediately. Many times MRSA is mistaken for bug and spider bites and other skin problems. If it spreads, and doesn’t respond to normal antibiotics after two to three days, it may be MSRA. If left untreated, MSRA can lead to cellulitis, abscesses and worse.

If parents or anyone suspects their son or daughter or themselves may be suffering from an MRSA infection make an appointment with a doctor immediately. Before the appointment, do the following:

  • Write down all pertinent details as to how and when the infection may have occurred.
  • Write down the complete medial history of the patient.
  • Write down the complete medical history of siblings and parents.
  • Make a list of all medications and supplements taken in the past year.
  • Make a list of your questions.

The doctor may take samples of skin and/or fluids for testing and prescribe drugs or perform drainage procedures. They will advise strict hygiene procedures and possibly isolation and/or protective clothing.