mrsaMethicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a potentially dangerous staph bacterium that causes skin and other infections 
Photo Credit:  Public Health Image Library

We’ve been using antibiotics to successfully treat infectious diseases for the last 70 years.  When prescribed appropriately and taken correctly, they’ve been of enormous value in shortening illnesses and saving lives.

But the drugs have been used for so long and so widely that the infectious organisms they were designed to kill now have the upper hand:  the infectious organisms have morphed into antibiotic resistant strains.

Many fungi, viruses and parasites have similarly evolved.

Persons infected with antimicrobial-resistant organisms are likely to have longer and more expensive hospital stays and may even die from infection.

Drug-resistant infections spread across the larger community, infections such as drug-resistant pneumonias, sexually transmitted diseases, and skin and soft tissue infections.

England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warns that “Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible—similar to global warming.

“I urge patients and prescribers to think about the drugs they are requesting and dispensing.  Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, ultimately becoming resistant so they no longer work.”

On this side of the pond, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is pushing a Get Smart Campaign to get at the root of the problem:  encouraging those who prescribe the drugs by becoming “antimicrobial stewards.”


It’s discouraging doctors from prescribing antibiotics for upper respiratory viral infections and encouraging the use of antibiotics only for upper respiratory bacterial infections.

The CDC’s program “Get Smart on the Farm” promotes appropriate antibiotic use in veterinary medicine and animal agriculture.   The program uses the World Health Organization’s definition of appropriate use of antibiotics as a use of the drugs that maximizes therapeutic effect and minimizes the development of antimicrobial resistance.


The goal of the National MRSA Education Initiative is to help the public better recognize and prevent MRSA skin infections.    Americans visit the doctor about 12,000,000 times each year to get checked for suspected Staph or MRSA skin infection.

You can get MRSA through direct contact with an infected person or by sharing personal item s, such as towels or razors that touched infected skin.

Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that may be:



Warm to the touch

Full of pus or other drainage

Accompanied by a fever

If someone in your family experiences these signs and symptoms of the disease, cover the area with a bandage and contact your doctor, especially if a fever accompanies the other symptoms.


The CDC program provides literature to promote hand hygiene in schools, during emergencies, before and after daily activities (preparing food, using the bathroom, handling pets, etc.) and in healthcare settings.

Sources:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2012   SmartPlanet Daily, November 16, 2012


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