MRSA Information for Patients and Families
Our MRSA Research Center is engaged in a variety of studies to understand how MRSA strains cause infection in otherwise healthy people—people like yourself.
We have known for many decades that MRSA infections occur and spread in people who have contact with healthcare facilities. This problem has not changed for many years. However, beginning about one decade ago, an epidemic of MRSA infections that occur in people who have no contact with healthcare environments began.
Why this has happened is not known. We know that the MRSA germs that cause community disease are different than the ones that spread in the healthcare environment. We have research projects that aim to understand why these community MRSA infections have become so common in otherwise healthy people. We also have projects aimed at understanding how MRSA germs spread.
You, or perhaps a member of your family, have had a MRSA infection before. Perhaps you already know that patients with MRSA infections, mostly skin and soft tissue infections to be sure, but sometimes much more serious, have flooded emergency rooms across the United States. You may have heard stories about, or yourself been affected by, a more serious MRSA infection than a skin and soft tissue infection—one that causes hospitalization or rarely even death.
We aim to find out why this is happening and how to stop it. We study the genetics of people who get MRSA infections, trying to understand whether there is something different about them. We study households that have patients with MRSA infection in them to understand how MRSA spreads in the household environment. We study inanimate objects to see how long staph survives on inanimate objects (sometimes called “fomites”). We study asymptomatic carriers who have MRSA in their nose or throat, perhaps on their skin, and try to understand how long this carriage of the germ goes on and how to decrease the carriage burden.
Is it good, for example, to apply an antibiotic to the nose or skin if you are a carrier? The answer is not at all certain. We know that all MRSA strains are not the same and that some have more potential for disease than others. We know that there are new risk factors that have to do with activities in the community that have nothing to do with the healthcare environment that predispose you to having a MRSA infection. Examples include membership on athletic teams and contact with someone who has recently been incarcerated. We do not understand these relationships and why they influence the spread of MRSA so much. We do not understand why these infections are sometimes so serious.
Please join us in the effort to perform investigations to find out all about the presence and spread of MRSA in the community—this will help us better understand MRSA and learn ways to greatly decrease its presence. We are delighted at your interest in our Website and hope that you will find a great deal of information useful to you on it and that you will contribute to our growing effort to deal with this epidemic problem.
Robert S. Daum, MD, CM
MRSA Research Center
University of Chicago Medical Center