Why We Are in the Middle of This Silent MRSA Epidemic
MRSA can be considered an epidemic due to the sheer number of MRSA infections and MRSA deaths that occur each year. It is estimated that MRSA is the cause of at least 59% of all skin and soft tissue infections. There are approximately 94,000 people infected with MRSA each year and approximately 19,000 deaths can be contributed to MRSA. So why has MRSA become an epidemic?
MRSA infections used to be only prevalent in the healthcare settings. The bacteria was carried from patient to patient on the hands of healthcare workers who did not follow proper hand washing techniques. Careless healthcare workers did not wash their hands or use any type of antibacterial wipes or gels in between caring for each patient. MRSA could run rampant in the healthcare setting, causing patients who were already immunosuppressed to become very ill.
However, after several years of education and measures put in place to promote proper hand hygiene in the healthcare setting, the incidences of MRSA seem to be declining. But that does not mean MRSA is on the run. Unfortunately, community-acquired MRSA cases are on the rise. This type of MRSA seems to strike faster and is more severe than hospital-acquired MRSA. CA-MRSA targets younger, healthy individuals. So now let’s take a closer look as to how MRSA became a silent killer.
Over the years, over prescribing of antibiotics have led to the development of the ‘super bug.’ Bacteria that was one susceptible to these antibiotics have now grown resistant. MRSA is a staph infection that used to be eradicated by methicillin. However, it is now resistant to this drug, hence the name methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Doctors over prescribed antibiotics, which contributed to the development of drug-resistant bacteria. The general public did not help matters by insisting upon medication for every ailment. Common colds and the flu are viruses and therefore cannot be treated with an antibiotic. But many individuals would insist on getting a pill to cure their illness, which resulted in antibiotics being used needlessly.
So how do bacteria become drug resistant? First of all, there are two types of antibiotics. One type will kill the bacteria outright, and the other type will keep the bacteria from reproducing. Certain types of bacteria have gotten wise to the way antibiotics work and have developed strategies to prevent them from working.
For example, some bacteria can keep the antibiotic from reaching its target by changing the permeability of the cell wall. If antibiotics get past the cell wall, some bacteria will actually use the energy that is naturally produced by the body to shoot the antibiotic back out of the cell. Some bacteria can actually change the structure of the target so the antibiotic cannot bind to it.
Bacteria develop resistance by joining together and changing their DNA. Small pieces of DNA can jump from one gene to another. DNA can be scavenged from dead bacteria. Every time bacteria acquire different DNA it slowly changes. Eventually, the antibiotic will no longer recognize the bacteria and will be unable to fight it.
Poor Health Habits
Another reason for the MRSA epidemic can be poor hygiene and health habits. MRSA is spread by direct contact. These bacteria can live on inanimate objects and spread to other by the hands. Individuals who do not use good hand hygiene are at risk for getting MRSA.
There is a reason for those hand wipes at the supermarket. Lots of bacteria reside on the handles of the shopping carts. The same goes for the bathroom. Every time you use the bathroom you should wash your hands after you are done. This can prevent the spread of deadly bacteria. You should also wash your hand before you eat.
Individuals who live in dirty conditions are putting themselves at risk for MRSA. A lot of times these same individuals will have unhealthy eating habits. This will decrease the immune system which puts them at risk for bacterial infections. In addition to the dirty conditions and poor eating habits, these individuals may smoke or drink to excess. These bad habits will also put them at risk for developing chronic bacterial infections that could become MRSA.
Improper Use of Antibiotics
In addition to the overuse of antibiotics, the improper use of antibiotics has contributed to the development of MRSA. Many individuals will not take a full course of antibiotics when prescribed. They will stop taking them when they start to feel better. Doing this will not kill off all the bacteria in your system. These bacteria that are left behind can start to change thier DNA using one or all the methods listed above which will lead to antibiotic resistance.
There are those individuals who will stockpile their antibiotics and try to self medicate themselves when they become ill again. However, certain antibiotics are specific to certain types of infections. Therefore, taking an antibiotic that is meant for a kidney infection will not be affective against a respiratory infection. Once again, the antibiotic is used needlessly, and resistance can develop.
These are the main reasons why MRSA has become an epidemic. The only way to stop this epidemic is to practice good hand hygiene and teach your family to do the same. Antibiotics should be used sparingly. They should never be prescribed for a virus. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, it is critical you take it exactly as prescribed. Finish the full course even if you feel better.
It is crucial that you clean your environment thoroughly, especially if you have been around someone with MRSA. Think about things that are shared such as keyboards and phones and disinfect them often. If you have cuts or open areas, make sure they are covered with a bandage 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.