Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

What is MRSA?

MRSA stands for Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria that lives on our skin. Meticillin resistant means that some standard antibiotics don’t work against it.

About 1 in 3 people have Staphylococcus aureus on their skin or in their nose. Most of the time, it doesn't cause any problems. When bacteria are present on or in our body but not causing problems, it's called colonisation.

MRSA can occasionally cause infection if it gets into breaks in the skin, like those made during surgery. Usually, these are mild infections that are easily treated with antibiotics. The standard antibiotics don't work for the MRSA type of Staphylococcus aureus, which means infections caused by MRSA can be harder to treat.

How does someone get MRSA?

Most MRSA is spread by skin-to-skin contact. It can also be spread from person to person through the environment; items like towels or bedsheets can transfer the bacteria from one person to another. If your child has been in the hospital or has had antibiotics recently, he or she is more likely to become colonised.

You can stop MRSA from spreading just by washing hands or using alcohol hand rub before and after contact with your child when they are in hospital.

How is MRSA diagnosed?

When your child is admitted to the hospital, we look for MRSA by taking a swab of the nose and the skin. The swabs are sent to the laboratory to see if MRSA grows. If it does, then it shows that your child is colonised with MRSA.

What happens if my child has MRSA?

1) If your child is colonised with MRSA, he or she will be given antimicrobial washes and an antibiotic cream for the inside of their nose; this is to clear the bacteria from your child’s skin (decolonisation). The treatment is for 5 days; the washes need to be used daily (including washing of hair with the wash on days 1 and 4) and the nose ointment 3 times per day. Some children are colonised for long periods of time despite repeated attempts to decolonise.

2) Your child will not usually need intravenous (into the bloodstream) or oral (by mouth) antibiotic treatment unless they become unwell with MRSA. However, because MRSA can spread from patient to patient in the hospital, we need to take some special measures to stop this from happening. Where possible, we will nurse your child in a separate room. Clinical staff will use additional precautions, such as wearing gloves and aprons. 

3) We will also put an alert on your child’s computer record to indicate that they have been found to have MRSA so that if they are re-admitted to hospital we can ensure they receive the correct treatment.

Do we need to take any precautions at home or school?

No, there are no additional things you need to do. We always recommend good standard hygiene measures, such as handwashing before eating and after going to the toilet, and using separate towels.

Do we need to inform other hospitals?

Yes, if your child is seen at a different hospital, you should let them know that your child has been found to have MRSA. This is so that the correct antibiotics can be prescribed if your child has an infection. If your child is admitted they will usually be cared for in a side room in isolation and staff will wear apron and gloves when in contact with your child.

Can MRSA come back once it’s been treated?

Yes. Sometimes the washes and nasal cream are unable to clear the colonisation. It can be particularly hard to clear MRSA in children who have wounds or long-term devices like breathing or feeding tubes. Also, because MRSA is easily transferred from person to person, your child could get MRSA again if they come into contact with someone else with MRSA, even after treatment.

When will my child be free from MRSA?

This sometimes varies between hospitals, but in general, we can say a child is free from MRSA if they were last positive for MRSA over 6 months ago and since then have had three negative MRSA screens taken at least 6 weeks apart. A senior member of the infection prevention team will review the screening results and the computer alert can then be removed.

What is the NHS doing to prevent MRSA?

The NHS is working hard to reduce the spread of MRSA. All patients are screened for MRSA on admission to hospital. If we find that a child has MRSA on their skin, we isolate them from other children and offer treatment to prevent it from spreading from one child to another.

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