Interaction of MRSA with a human white cell. The bacteria shown is strain MRSA 252, a leading cause of hospital-associated infections in the U.S. and U.K. (ROCKY MOUNTAIN LABORATORIES, NIAID, NIH)

Washington Post reporter Lena H. Sun reports: “In a tiny sample of bedbugs, collected from patients living in crowded conditions in an impoverished neighborhood in Canada, researchers found the drug-resistant bacteria known as MRSA.”

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, is a bacterial infection that is highly resistant to some antibiotics.

It is normally transmitted through either physical contact with someone who is infected or is a carrier, or physical contact with an object that has been touched by a MRSA-infected person or carrier.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) itself is just a common type of bacteria that live on the skin and sometimes in the nasal passage of healthy people. A staph infection happens when MRSA, a strain of S. aureus, does not respond to antibiotics used to treat infections.

When the bacterium enters the body through a cut or sore (or something artificial, like a breathing tube), it can cause infection. Some infections confined to the skin are less serious, while others that infect the heart or lung can be life-threatening.

Serious staph infections happen more often to people with weak immune systems, such as patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Other people at risk of staph infections include athletes who share equipment, children in daycare facilities, members of the military, and those who get tattoos.

The number of less serious MRSA cases are increasing.

Symptoms of staph infections may include:

— red, swollen, painful area on the skin

— fever

— pus or other fluids draining from the site of infection

— warmth around the infected area

— skin abscess

Symptoms of a more serious staph infection may include:

— chest pain

— cough

— fatigue

— fever

— chills

— headache

— rash

— shortness of breath

MRSA infections are diagnosed by their physical appearance and culturing of the bug from skin, blood, urine, or respiratory fluids. Antibiotics are prescribed in many cases, and MRSA skin abscesses are drained.

Staph infections can lead to bigger problems, like pneumonia or a blood infection.

MRSA can be prevented by frequent hand washing, not sharing personal items, covering wounds, cleaning sporting equipment before use, and avoiding bathing facilities or saunas if another person has an open sore.

Note: This post has been updated.

(Via PubMed Health)

See the Washington Post special report on MRSA.