MRSA (Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-171/2016
  • Departments: Infection Prevention and Control
  • Last Updated: 13 June 2016


This leaflet tells you about bacteria known as MRSA. It explains what it is, what causes it and what you should do to prevent the spread of it. It is not meant to replace informed discussion between you and your doctor, but can act as a starting point for such a discussion. If after reading it, you have any concerns or require further explanation please discuss this with the nurse who has been caring for you.

What is MRSA?

MRSA stands for Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria (germ), which is found in up to 40% of the population. When it is present it is usually found on people’s skin, noses and throats. It may be responsible for common conditions such as spots and boils. Most strains of this bacterium are sensitive to numerous antibiotics and infections can be adequately treated. The MRSA strain is more resistant to some antibiotics and less easily treated.

Will MRSA do me any harm?

MRSA can live on the body quite harmlessly and you probably will not show any physical signs of infection, but it has the potential to cause serious infections if it is allowed to enter the body; for example when the surface of the skin is broken. This may be due to trauma, surgical wounds, intravenous drips or having other medical devices inserted. Infections are more likely to happen in people who are already unwell.

How is MRSA diagnosed?

MRSA is identified by taking a swab from your nose, a combined swab from your axilla (armpit) and groins and swabs from any wounds you may have. Occasionally other specimens, such as a specimen of urine or sputum may grow MRSA.

How is MRSA treated?

MRSA is treated by using an antiseptic body wash when you shower or bathe and wash your hair. MRSA in the nose or wounds is usually treated with antibiotic ointment. Sometimes it may be necessary to use antibiotic tablets or injections to treat a severe infection.

It is important to inform staff if you have a history of dermatitis or other skin conditions, as it may be necessary to use an alternative body wash.

How will I know if the MRSA has been treated successfully?

The nurse will collect a series of swabs and specimens and will liaise closely with the Infection Prevention & Control Team. When the specimens show no MRSA on three successive occasions then the bacteria has been eradicated.

How can the spread of MRSA be minimised?

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of the bacteria to other patients is to nurse you in a single room. Staff will wear disposable gloves and aprons and wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when carrying out clinical care or when entering and leaving your room.

Sometimes a single room may not be available. In this case although you may be nursed in a bay with other patients, the same infection prevention and control precautions should still be used.

Will my visitors be at risk?

Although MRSA does not usually cause any ill effects in healthy people, including pregnant women and children, it can be carried on their hands. Visitors should keep cuts covered with a waterproof dressing and ensure they wash their hands on entering and leaving the ward.

Visitors are not required to wear gloves and aprons unless they are performing or assisting with your care and providing they have no direct contact with other hospital patients. Visitors and staff should always clean their hands when leaving your room or bedside.

If you are readmitted to hospital

If you should need to be readmitted to hospital you will be tested (screened) again for MRSA. It may be advisable to nurse you in a single room until the results of the test (screen) are known. The hospital will endeavour to obtain three sets of negative screens to establish that the MRSA has been cleared.

It is now routine practice to screen patients for MRSA when they come into hospital so there is no cause for concern if you are rescreened once you have been cleared of the bacteria. This is a precaution to ensure that treatment can be commenced as quickly as possible, if you have become colonized again with MRSA (tested positive for MRSA but have no signs or symptoms of infection).

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the Infection Prevention and Control Team on tel no:  01482 674869 or 01482 623066


General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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