You probably think I have lost my mind, and you are most likely right! But let me explain!
As an active person, who frequents gyms and yoga studios, and has some knowledge regarding microbiologics, I have a heightened awareness of “disease by contact”. I often get questions from fellow gym rats about MRSA. I don’t want to push any panic buttons, but thought it might be a good idea to talk about exactly what MRSA is, how it is transmitted, how we can avoid it and if needed, how to treat it.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacteria that colonizes 20-30% of the healthy population at any given time. It is estimated that 60% of us will have staph, on our skin or in our nostrils, at some point, and around 10-20% never have it on their person.
Why do some have it and others do not? That is personal genetics for you! Some of us have a more inviting living environment for this particular strain of bacteria. And, it is usually harmless as it goes about living on our bodies.
But that is the key point, on our bodies, not inside! Should staph breach our exterior defense and enter into the tissue or blood stream, then we may have a problem.
I will give you a personal and embarrassing example of just how easy it is to become infected with staph from your own body! I had a hangnail on my thumb, probably from some exercise related event. I should have removed it with a nail clipper or scissor, but no. I was in a hurry, it was bugging me, so I bit it off with my teeth. Yes, I am an animal!😬
One day later my thumb was twice the size it is supposed to be, and I knew I had a staph infection. I had bitten too close to the surface of the skin and caused a small tear. The staph entered and found a warm, moist environment and began to multiply like crazy.
Of course I was busy and didn’t have time to go to the doctor. I also wanted to give my immune system a chance to clear the infection on its own, which happens often as our immune systems are incredibly competent. Apparently I overestimated my healing powers, because just 48 hours later I could barely bend my thumb at the joint.
I swallowed my pride and saw my doc, who laughed and said “a PhD in molecular biology should know better!” She was right, I should have and I still infected myself! After 2 weeks of a standard antibiotic, I was back to using my opposable digit with no ill after affects. Ego was still bruised. 😳
My experience has been, and will continue to be the norm. These stories don’t make headlines.
So, what is MRSA?
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This strain of bacteria has acquired antibiotic resistance by living in a strict environment, such as those in hospitals. A hospital, or health care facility, is extremely clean and forces the bacteria to mutate to survive. Under this selective pressure, the bacteria have to acquire genetic mutations to deal with strong cleaning solvents, hot temperatures and multiple forms of antibiotics. Those individual bacteria that hit the genetic jackpot will reproduce and provide the next generation with those specific genes, making this strain extremely tough to kill.
Hospitals don’t only provide that extreme environment, they also have patients who are already ill, and have compromised immune systems. The act of surgery, intebation and catheterization are all breaches into the body that help facilitate the bacteria’s entry.
Infections that occur while a patient is in the hospital are called nosocomial infections. Hospitals are required to publish their nosocomial rates of infection by the CDC and WHO, and the consumer can look up that data, if they are concerned about an upcoming procedure.
However, you can still acquire MRSA or other forms of staph infections outside of the health care system, that’s known as CA-MRSA, or Community Acquired MRSA.
Who is at risk?
CA-MRSA is transmitted by direct contact with a
carrier, or contact with an object used by the infected individual. Athletes, particularly those who use mats or pads for their activities are at a higher risk of contracting staph infections. Think boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, yoga…you get the idea. Also, people living in close quarters, who share items in that environment, such as prisons, dorms, and barracks.
Hygiene is king!
You knew that was going to be the answer, right! Washing hands, taking showers, disinfecting mats and exercise gear, all of these are the best defense to contracting ANY infections.
Keep cuts and tears covered at the gym, don’t help the bacteria get into you in the first place. If you do become infected with something, don’t panic or presume the worst! The odds are great that you have a standard, treatable condition.
MRSA can be effectively treated with strong antibiotics, in combination. Often the sores or blisters that result from the infection can be drained and they heal on their own. It is important to treat the infection before it has a chance to spread via the blood stream, that condition is called sepsis, or systemic and is far harder to treat.
I have to admit, I was really happy the other day when I saw the mats being cleaned at kickboxing! 😏
Stay healthy my friends!💕
VISA; vancomycin intermediate SA, VRSA: vancomycin resistant SA
Antibiotics used to treat staph infections