MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus)
This very troublesome and dangerous infection can be passed easily to people with a weakened immune system and is extremely difficult to prevent or cure. The best course of action is, of course, to prevent infection and this can be done in a combination of ways. It was originally considered an epidemic due to the number of MRSA infections and MRSA deaths that occurred each year but deaths are now starting to drop and in 2010 in the UK they had fallen to 485. Historically, over the years, the excessive prescribing of antibiotics led to the emergence of a ‘super bug.’ Bacteria that were once susceptible to these antibiotics have now grown resistant and MRSA is a staph infection that used to be eradicated by methicillin. However, it has now grown resistant to this drug, hence the name methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
As mentioned, recently the incidents of MRSA have fallen because of increased awareness of the infection by both medical staff and the public. However, MRSA infection is still primarily spread by poor hygiene and health habits. MRSA can live on inanimate objects for months and therefore, it is important that you protect yourself while out in public. The bacteria can live on inanimate objects and spread to other by the hands. Use hand wipes at the supermarket as bacteria reside on the handles of the shopping trolleys and it is critical that you never put your child in a shopping trolley without cleaning it first. Children and babies love to chew on the handles and then put their fingers in their mouths. The same risk goes for public toilet facilities and each time you use the toilet you should carefully wash your hands when you are finished and particularly before you eat.
People who live in unhygienic conditions are at a greater risk for MRSA; as in many instances their cooking and eating facilities are also insanitary which will result in a decrease in the effectiveness of their immune system which increases their risk for bacterial infections. It is imperative that you clean your environment thoroughly, especially if you have been around someone with MRSA. It is unimportant that your house and kitchen are old or outdated as long as it is clean, some super shiny modern kitchens are biologically filthy. Think about things that are shared, in the house, such as door handles, computer keyboards and phones and disinfect them often. If you have cuts or open sores, make sure they are covered with a bandage or adhesive dressing at all times to keep them from getting infected with MRSA.
By following these tips, you can help prevent MRSA from spreading and becoming even more powerful. How about washing your hands - what can be difficult about that?, so firstly let’s look at the simple process. Everybody’s hands carry bacteria and the only way to remove the bugs is to scrub them away. There is a proper procedure for hand washing and that is to wet the hands, under a running tap, apply soap and then rub your hands together for a full 15 seconds, making sure to rub all surfaces of the hands, including the backs and in between the fingers. The friction will loosen the bacteria on your hands and wash it down the drain. After you finished washing your hands rinse the soap thoroughly under the tap with hands pointing downward so the dirty water runs down the drain. Use a paper towel to turn off the tap so you don’t contaminate your hands again. Dry your hands thoroughly with clean paper towels and dispose of them sensibly (i.e. do not use them again)
Your best defence against MRSA is to ensure a strong immune system so it is critical you take good care of yourself by eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. Sleep is crucial to a healthy body so make sure you are getting at least six to eight hours of sleep per night. These MRSA prevention tips are for the entire family. Teach your children proper hand washing techniques as soon as they are able to understand. Give them a hand sanitizer to take to school to use when they can’t get to a sink. Explain to them how important good hand hygiene is.
Outside of hospitals one of the common breeding grounds for MRSA are prisons, military installations, athletic facilities or gyms. The users routinely get cuts or abrasions on the skin which gives a portal of entry for MRSA. Athletes will share towels and other grooming items, the gym equipment will carry sweat, blood etc. which can spread MRSA. They may also have inadequate access to proper hygiene measures or just do not follow the proper hygiene measures. Shower after exercise and never share towels or other items. Wash your kit after each use and dry it thoroughly in the dryer, if available, to kill bacteria. It is very important that all cuts and abrasions are covered with a bandage or adhesive dressing. If you are working out in the gym, make sure you wipe down the equipment before and after each use with a clean disposable towel and sanitising spray. While in the locker room protect yourself by wearing sandals. Don’t let your bare feet touch the locker room floor or shower. Always keep a towel between your bare skin and locker room surfaces. It is not a good idea to let bare skin come into contact with the benches or the sinks in the locker room because MRSA can live on these surfaces.
Paradoxically MRSA infections are more common in people who are in hospital or nursing homes. Doctors have dubbed this as healthcare-associated MRSA (or HA-MRSA). More recently, MRSA has been known to develop outside hospitals and nursing homes and this is known as community-associated MRSA (or CA-MRSA). It is more common in crowded environments where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact and poor hygiene, such as homeless shelters, prisons, schools or army bases.
Hospital patients are obviously more at risk because they will often have an entry point for the bacteria to get into their body, such as a surgical wound, burn or an intravenous drip. They are often older and weaker, due to illness, which makes them more vulnerable contracting the infection. They are surrounded by a large number of also ill people, which means bacteria can easily spread through direct contact with other patients or staff or contaminated surfaces.
One of the ways in which MRSA is transmitted from carrier to patient is by bed bug bites which is why exceptional hygiene needs to be practiced and all forms of biting insect eradicated including fleas and lice.. If an individual has MRSA of the lungs, the spores can become airborne with a cough or a sneeze which can infect others if they are inhaled. MRSA has even been detected in many fast-food restaurants, on tables, chairs, high chairs, menu cards etc.
MRSA is a staph infection that became widespread. One of the problem is MRSA is not confined to a single area of the body and therefore is difficult to treat and without immediate attention, can become deadly. It is critical that you learn to identify the common and uncommon symptoms of MRSA.. Let’s take a look at the various types of symptoms that MRSA can produce.
Boils - This is a reasonably common infection of the skin that will start as a tender, reddened area that becomes very hard. Eventually, the centre of the reddened area will become filled with pus. The pus will form a head which can either be surgically opened, or it may burst and drain out of its own accord. If the pus becomes trapped within the tissue, it is known as an abscess and will require medical attention. There are several types of boils, Furuncles or Carbuncles are abscesses within the skin that are caused by a staph infection such as MRSA. A furuncle is a boil that occurs within a hair follicle and will become a very tender and produce a red nodule that will cause a considerable amount of pain as it grows into a large abscess. A carbuncle is a deep skin abscess that infects several hair follicles at the same time and will grow to be larger than a furuncle.
Cystic acne - These are abscesses that develop when oil glands become clogged and infected and will infect deeper tissues than common acne. This is the most serious form of acne and will feel like soft fluid formed lumps underneath the skin. These lumps can grow to a very large size and can become very painful.
A pilonidal cyst is an abscess that occurs in the crease of the buttocks. This type of cyst starts with an infection in the base of a hair follicle and irritation from the direct pressure of sitting and moist heat will produce a firm pain nodule which will make sitting difficult and uncomfortable.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection formed in the deeper layers of the skin and fatty tissues. The symptoms of cellulitis are redness, tenderness, swelling and pain at the infection site. Cellulitis symptoms can occur suddenly and become severe rapidly. This infection can occur anywhere on your body and if left untreated, cellulitis can spread into the bloodstream and lymph nodes which could be deadly.
Folliculitis is yet another infection of the hair follicles. However, folliculitis is a more superficial infection than carbuncles. The symptoms of folliculitis will include small, white-headed pimples that appear around one or more hair follicles and produce itching and some pain.
Scalded skin syndrome is a staphylococcal skin infection that usually only infects children under six years old. Infants are most likely affected as staph enters the body through the umbilical stump or nappy area. Once it gets into the baby’s system it can infect the entire skin. The symptoms to look for will start as an initial lesion that will be superficial and have a crusty appearance. Within 24 hours the surrounding skin will become very red and painful, spreading quickly. The skin will take on a paper like consistency and large fluid filled blisters will form, quickly bursting and causing the skin to start peeling away, often in large sections. Immediate medical treatment with the proper antibiotics is critical and urgent.
Toxic shock syndrome is luckily a rare but life-threatening infection resulting from bacteria. It most often affects menstruating women but children and men can get it also from open wounds. The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome are a sudden high fever and low blood pressure with a rash that develops on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. These symptoms may also be accompanied by vomiting or diarrhoea, headaches, seizures, confusion, muscle aches and redness of the eyes and throat. Immediate treatment is necessary to avoid life-threatening complications.
A stye is a red and painful lump that appears near the edge of your eyelid, which can be quite common in children. It will resemble a boil or a pimple and be filled with pus causing eyelid pain, eyelid swelling and tearing. Left untreated the infection will sometimes extend beyond your eyelid to involve your cheek or other areas of your face.
Breast abscesses. This can occur with bacteria getting through a cut in the skin or through the nipple, perhaps caused by a bite. The fatty tissue of the breast will get infected with staph and will swell, pushing on the milk ducts and producing a lot of pain. Breast abscesses most commonly appear in breast feeding women, which can cause breast pain with a lump and one breast may be larger than the other. The infected person may develop a fever and other flu-like symptoms, including nausea and vomiting. There may be discharge from the nipple and the lymph nodes, on the affected side, may become tender and enlarged.
Wound Infections - An open wound on the body provides easy access for MRSA to enter. Therefore, you need to monitor all wounds carefully and keep them covered with either sterile bandages or adhesive dressings. The symptoms of a MRSA wound infection include the wound becoming very red and swollen and seeping yellowish coloured pus. If MRSA gets into a wound and is not treated it can spread throughout the entire body via the bloodstream and cause life-threatening conditions such as septic shock. This can produce a severe drop in blood pressure with fever and breathing problems. Sepsis can include blood poisoning, bone infection, meningitis, pneumonia or inflammation of the inner lining of the heart.
Necrotizing Fasciitis - Regardless of the type of MRSA an individual has, it is critical that he or she seeks immediate medical treatment as left untreated can progress into necrotizing fasciitis. This is a rapidly spreading infection of the connective tissue that results in the death of the tissue. Necrotizing fasciitis is fatal in about 75% of all cases and there is new evidence to suggest that some strains of CA-MRSA are developing into this fatal skin disease. Therefore, any skin infection that you have should never be ignored and early intervention could save your life.
MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics and it may be useful to understand how it has developed this resistance. The infection is known as an intelligent pathogen and by that we mean a pathogen that understands that by attempting to destroy the body it infects it will be targeted by a drug that will kill it leaving the body intact. To counteract this, the pathogen continues to mutate into a form that the antibiotic will not destroy, but unintentionally will still result in the death of the patient. The overuse of antibiotics in recent years has played a major part in antibiotic resistance. This includes using antibiotics to treat minor conditions that would have got better anyway or not finishing a recommended course of antibiotics.
Minor skin infections may not require any treatment other than draining away any pus from the site of the infection and applying a sterile dressing; it should not need a course of antibiotics.
In the case of serious infections they can still be treated with antibiotics that MRSA has not yet developed resistance to. Although there are broad spectrum antibiotics it is better to use one developed specifically for the strain of MRSA involved. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, antibiotic tablets or injections will be used and you may need to have a much longer course of treatment compared to a normal staph infection.
Surgically dealing with the problem involves making an incision and drainage by piercing the tip of the boil or abscess with a sterile needle or scalpel. This encourages the pus to drain out, which should immediately help relieve pain and stimulate the recovery process. Before having the procedure, the doctor is likely to give you a local anaesthetic to numb the affected area.
More extensive skin infections, such as cellulitis (an infection of the underlying layers of skin), will usually require a 5- to 10-day course of suitable antibiotic tablet.
You're likely to be given a 7- to 14-day course of antibiotic injections if you develop a skin or soft tissue infection in hospital because you're more vulnerable to the effects of the infection. This may well be because you have burns or a surgical wound.
If you develop MRSA in hospital, it's almost certain that you will need to be transferred to an isolation room or special ward. This reduces the risk of the infection spreading to other patients, either locally or within the hospital. You should still be able to have visitors, but it is very important that for their benefit and others that they clean their hands thoroughly before and after visiting you and before and after touching you.
There are currently a few antibiotics that are being used to treat MRSA. Clindamycin, Zyvox, Vibramycin and Vancomycin are being used to treat both HA-MRSA and CA-MRSA. Bactrim has also been shown to be effective at treating CA-MRSA. Of all the antibiotics used, Vancomycin seems to have the greatest effect on these drug resistant bacteria.
As with all antibiotics they are not without side effects. Antibiotics are designed to kill off bad bacteria in the body, but it can also destroy a number of good bacteria. When this happens, the yeast that lives in your body begins to thrive and a thrush infection can occur, mainly in women, but men can get yeast infections also (see my hub on Thrush). Yeast infections, however are not the worst of the side effects and the following are a guide to the side effects that can occur with these types of antibiotics:
Abnormally low blood pressure.
Shortness of Breath.
Yellowing of the skin and the eyes.
Unexplained Joint Pain.
Red skin rash accompanied by blistering and peeling.
Red man Syndrome.- flushing and itching of the face, neck and torso following Vancomycin by IV.
Loss of appetite.
MRSA has the ability to get deep into the body and can target individuals who have broken bones or hips with metal joints or strengthening plates. The hardware can become infected with MRSA and need to be removed and replacement hardware cannot be put back in until the MRSA infection has been cleared, thus resulting in two operations.
As mentioned before MRSA can target other places on your body. Individuals can get MRSA in the lungs, in the bloodstream and in the urinary system. Left unattended it can produce serious complications if not treated in time. The following is a guide to complications that can arise from deep MRSA infections.
Septicaemia - Otherwise referred to as blood poisoning or bacteraemia with sepsis. Don’t underestimate what is a very serious life-threatening condition that can progress through the body rapidly. This type of MRSA complication starts with fever spikes, chills; fast heart rate and rapid breathing which can quickly deteriorate to septic shock characterized by either a high or low body temperature. Blood pressure will fall, causing confusion with the patient developing blood clotting problems producing small red spots on the skin. Septicaemia will require admission to hospital, usually within an ICU department with the patient receiving IV fluids, antibiotics and oxygen. In some cases, a blood transfusion may need to be given to correct blood clotting abnormalities and despite aggressive treatment, in extreme cases may prove fatal.
Amputation - An MRSA infection that is left untreated could lead to gangrene which occurs when the tissues die because their blood supply is interrupted. The treatment for gangrene involves debridement (cutting away the dead tissue) but in some cases, the gangrene will be so deep and extensive the only way to stop any further spread is removal of the body part that is dead. This most common occurrence is in the extremities, especially the toes. You may have read of accounts of using maggots which will eat only the dead flesh leaving the healthy untouched. It sounds disgusting but it has a high success rate and has saved many people from amputation.
Osteomyelitis - Another complication of untreated MRSA is osteomyelitis which is an infection of the bone. The symptoms of osteomyelitis can include fever, bone pain, general discomfort and swelling over the infected bone. This condition can be detected using blood tests and x-ray or CT scan of the bone. The treatment for osteomyelitis includes intravenous antibiotics and it is common to get more than one antibiotic for this type of infection. If the infection is not responding to antibiotics, surgery may be needed to remove the infected bone. In some more extreme cases of chronic osteomyelitis, amputation may be necessary.
Endocarditis - Untreated MRSA can cause an inflammation of the inside lining of the heart and the heart valves. This is known as endocarditis which will produce many symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, night sweats, weakness and shortness of breath. Treatment for endocarditis will include hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics. In some cases, surgery may be needed to replace damaged heart valves. A more complete description of this condition is shown on my hub “Splinter fingernails”.
Pneumonia - We know it is possible for MRSA to get into the lungs where it will multiply rapidly. Symptoms of MRSA pneumonia include a cough that produces green or yellow phlegm, high fever, chills, chest pain and difficulty breathing. The patient must receive immediate medical attention. The elderly and those with weak immune systems are at the highest risk for developing serious complications from this type of pneumonia. Treatment usually includes intravenous antibiotics and in severe cases, the patient may have to be put on a breathing machine. It should not be taken lightly as in some cases it can be fatal.
Herbal and Natural remedies
Prior to the discovery of modern antibiotics treatment of infections was carried out using herbs and essential oils. Modern science was not available and herb preparation variable, so in many instances the dose levels were guessed at and it was very much kill or cure, but little was documented. Even before the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, since ancient times people learned that certain 'greenish' moulds found on grains and fruit had antibiotic properties. It was Fleming's accidental discovery that led to the isolation of penicillin which is a by-product of these certain types of moulds, and introduce his powerful discovery to the scientific medical community.
During my time at a major pharmaceutical company we realised that many of the drugs synthesised from nature were incomplete and required buffering agents to protect the patient from the less desirable effects. These buffering compounds were nearly always present in the herbs but were excluded during the synthesis. Additionally we found that essential oils previously used to treat infections did not trigger the self-protection mutation and continued to kill the pathogen irrespective of how and how many times it mutated.
Essential oils - Modern antibiotics are fine for general infections and should continue to be used as prescribed, but certain antibiotic resistant infections, such as MRSA may respond to “old fashioned” essential oil blends. Do not use this blend against medical advice but when all else fails it could work. Its primary use, however, is in the prevention of MRSA and should be used in an essential oil cassette fan unit to spread the molecules of the essential oils throughout the air of the sick-room.
Add the following to 30ml bottle and top up with Grapeseed Oil with a little Borage Oil.
Tea Tree (10) Thyme (10) Sandalwood (2)
Cinnamon Bark (5) Manuka (10) Eucalyptus (radiata)(5)
Lavender (10) Peppermint (10) Juniper (5)
Niaouli (2) Lemon (5)
Mix as a blend using figures in brackets as number of drops and add a few drops of blend onto a tissue and breathe in. Use the same blend in a diffuser or essential oil cassette fan.
Carvacrol, a phenolic compound found at a level approaching over 93% in Mediterranean oregano oil, may be effective against MRSA,
It's generally believed by botanists and biochemists that the components that are found in plants that give them their pungent, spicy or bitter flavours were naturally developed to protect the plant from pathogens and to prevent various animals from grazing them into extinction. In a similar protective manner, spices were used on meat and various foods to slow spoilage in the days before refrigeration. People soon learned that by taking them internally and applying them topically as extracted oils, poultices or fomentations, these same stimulating antipathogenic properties were imparted to animals and people.
Before pharmaceutical antibiotics, staph infections were effectively treated both internally and topically using anti-inflammatory, 'heat clearing' herbs. Throughout the early to mid-part of the 20th century, North American echinacea became the most popular herb used for treating and preventing such conditions. Herbs such as thyme and oregano were similarly and widely used in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy where they naturally grow.
But even before the advent of MRSA, increasing numbers of medical doctors and patients realised that one of the downsides of antibiotics, is that they not only destroy the virulent bacteria strains but also the billions of friendly bacteria that live in our gut and are essential for healthy digestion and a healthy immune system. To counteract this, patients have learned to always take probiotics -- friendly bacteria -- found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and miso for general health but especially when taking antibiotics.
Unlike synthetic antibiotic drugs which target a specific action or type of bacteria, herbs usually combine both bactericidal (bacteria-killing) as well as bacteriostatic (bacteria proliferation-stopping) properties and are relatively independent as to what kind of bacteria are present or whether they have evolved resistant strains or not. Herbs are not the panacea for all ills and particularly they are poor at dealing with some virulent strains of bacteria (such as gonorrhoea, syphilis and tuberculosis, which should be treated with a strong antibiotic drug). However, most common staph and strep infections are relatively easily treated with herbs and a diet which is low in refined carbohydrates.
Rather than damaging the digestion process like many antibiotic drugs, certain spicy herbs such as oregano are known to specifically help digestion. Further, many of these herbs are broadly classified as "heat clearing," meaning that their value as an anti-infective is not merely limited to bacteria but assist the body in fighting off viral infections as well. Thus, regardless of whether one decides to use antibiotics or not, there is a complementary value in using heat clearing herbs synergistically to possibly promote improved recuperation and health.
Olive Leaf Extract: Eastern European hospitals have been treating MRSA naturally with Olive leaf extract for centuries as a natural antibiotic and have recently found it fights the MRSA bacteria effectively. Hungarian hospitals in particular are using olive leaf extract to fight MRSA infection in their patients.
Colloidal Silver: This natural treatment for MRSA has been shown in tests to kill over six hundred organisms, in comparison to standard antibiotics which are only effective against six. Used for centuries, this remedy has proved to be an effective natural antibiotic.
Turmeric: This eastern herb has antibacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat boils and other staph infections of the skin, including MRSA, with much success. It can cause mild stomach upset for some, so taking it with or in foods is recommended. Many find it helpful to take a probiotic yogurt at the same time.
Clinical trials have proved that honey (particularly Manuka) is very effective in killing MRSA. This can be eaten or applied topically to a wound or infected area and protected with a sterile dressing.
In the event of an allergic or unusual reaction to any of the products mentioned, show the above article to a medical practitioner.
Splinter Fingernails (Endocarditis)
- Splinter Fingernails - Curious symptom caused by a blow or possibly an indication of heart disease.
Splinter fingernails are those with a vertical brown mark (like a splinter) which has been caused by a blow or other trauma. More seriously they can be an indication of endocarditis disease.
Thrush - Yeast infection
- Thrush (candida albicans) - affects women, men, babies and animals. How to cure.
Thrush or candida albicans can be very difficult to eradicate. A combination of essential oils, yoghout and antibiotics can cure the problem along with herbs. In addition a colloidal cream or spray will kill the fungus and prevent the return.
© 2012 Peter Geekie
Peter Geekie (author) from Sittingbourne on May 19, 2012:
Dear Breakfastpop, I was very seriously ill a little while ago and one of the things the hospital gave me was MRSA. I don't recommend spending a week being bathed all over with some evil smelling gunk by a pair of nurses who I think were trained to handle meat in a butchers shop. Now a couple of little dolly nurses might be a different story but I think they only exist in films. I do apologise if there are any kind dolly nurses out there !!
breakfastpop on May 19, 2012:
Recently, two people I know came down with MRSA after a hospital stay. It is all very frightening to me. Voted up and useful.