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Mount Sinai Hospital is a University of Toronto patient care, teaching, and research centre.
Mount Sinai Hospital is a University of Toronto patient care, teaching, and research centre.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

This document has been prepared for educational purposes by Maxine Armstrong, RN, BASc. Should you have questions regarding individual health concerns or health care practices, please consult your physician or health care provider directly.

» What is MRSA?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA for short is a resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), a bacterium that lives on human skin and is often found in the warm moist environment of the nose. It usually lives on about 40% of people, and does not cause any harm. However, when S. aureus becomes resistant, it can no longer be treated with the usual antibiotics doctors prescribe to treat infections caused by S. aureus.

» Can it be Harmful?

There are many types of germs that are normally found in our body. These normal germs do not harm us and are needed to keep our body healthy. Sometimes when we get sick, normal germs can become harmful since the body is weakened from illness.

» How is it Transmitted?

MRSA is easily spread by contact with the hands. Caregivers or someone who is carrying the organism can unknowingly transmit the germ during routine activities and procedures.

» Who is at Risk?

People who are in or have been in the hospital are at risk of getting MRSA, and people who are very sick are at highest risk for MRSA infection. However, it is possible for a healthy person to carry (become colonized with) the organism without being sick.

» How can Transmission be Prevented?

Special precautions are needed in order to prevent the spread of MRSA to other patients in the hospital who are ill and therefore more likely to develop an infection. It is important for patients, staff and visitors to follow the Special Isolation Precautions for Patients with MRSA and Special Isolation Precautions for Contacts of MRSA.

In addition, you can:
  • Wash your hands often and well.
  • Ask your nurse or doctor any questions you may have. They can discuss your individual situation with you.
  • If you go to another doctor, another hospital or return to our hospital, please tell your doctor and nurse that you were once on special precautions for an antibiotic-resistant organism. This will allow them to check your status and use precautions to ensure that they do not carry the organism to other patients.

» Are there any Treatments for MRSA?

Infection with MRSA can still be treated with a limited number of antibiotics to which the organism is susceptible. However, serious infections may require hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics which must be give through an IV cannula (a cannula which is placed into a vein).

Sometimes, even if the germ is not presently causing an infection, it may be necessary to try and get rid of it in order to prevent infection or transmission to other people in the hospital. Special procedures which include medications and/or special soaps for bathing may be recommended by your doctor or infection control service.

This website has been made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer Canada Inc.
Copyright 1999-2007 Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada. All rights reserved.