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MRSA in homes: Study shows MRSA common in homes, how can you protect yourself?

MRSA in homes is on the increase. Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known by its acronym MRSA, is an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection, which up until now was generally thought to be restricted to confined places like hospitals, locker rooms and nursing homes. However, a new study shows that the MRSA superbug might be right in our own home.

Hand washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

According to MSN Healthy Living on April 22, a study that was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that homes can be a reservoir for breeding the MRSA bacteria. A research group from Columbia University Medical Center in New York City reviewed 161 New York City residents who contracted MRSA infections between 2009 and 2011. Scientists tracing back the infections found evidence that the individual’s homes were “major reservoirs” of a MRSA strain called USA300 – the principle root of community MRSA infections in the Unites States.

“What our findings show is it's also endemic in households,” said lead researcher Dr. Anne-Catrin Uhlemann. Their team’s conclusions, Uhlemann said, is that “we can't just treat the person with the infection. We have to attempt to remove the (MRSA) colonization from the home.”

Dr. Henry Chambers, chair of the antimicrobial resistance committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, pointed out that MRSA is spread from skin to skin contact. Within a family, that could be via shared toiletries, like razors or towels. “Transmission is a function of contact and time,” Dr. Champers said. “At the end of the day, who are you in contact with the most? Your family.”

Chambers said that if someone has a MRSA infection, it is imperative that they cease contact with other family members or anyone in the household. “Basically, it boils down to keeping the wound covered, and frequent hand washing,” Chambers pointed out.

In fact, hand washing is still the basic and best – and most overlooked – preventative measure to stop the spread of bacteria and infection. Any time we return to our homes from being out, or after touching money, the very first thing to do is make a sink stop. And “baptizing” our soapless hands as it were for a few seconds in cold water does nothing to kill germs.

The ABCs of hand washing still apply – you should be able to count your ABCs, or count approximately 15 seconds, while you scrub all surfaces of your hands with warm water and an anti-bacterial soap. According to Uhlemann, bleach should also be used to clean surfaces, and bedding and clothes should be washed in hot water.

The Huffington Post reports that in the study, “swabs taken from the homes of the MRSA patients showed that the MRSA was genetically similar to the MRSA that infected the patients from those households. Meanwhile, MRSA samples between households were more genetically different from each other.” Essentially, the home played a critical role in spreading the MRSA infection among those who resided there.

MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics commonly used to treat other staph infections. While a staph bacterium is frequently carried in the noses of individuals – one out of three people – most will not become ill. By contrast, MRSA is carried in two out of 100 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is highly contagious. The infected site onsets with a bump or infected red area of the skin that may be swollen, painful, warm to the touch and or containing pus.

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