How does an MRSA test work
Everyone has heard of dangerous hospital germs. Hardly anyone who has not yet been affected, at least everyone knows someone who has already been infected with the multi-resistant germ. MRSA, the most common antibiotic-resistant pathogen, causes around 20,000 infections in German hospitals every year. Known for many decades, but the problem is still not under control. Patients stay infected for a long time in hospital, in the worst case they even die from the infection. MRSA is a serious medical problem and at the same time a huge cost factor. Worrying: For some years now, MRSA has also been spreading outside of hospitals, which is not least due to the high use of antibiotics in outpatient settings. In the fight against this dangerous pathogen, rapid tests at the point of care are becoming increasingly important. They can help contain the spread.
What does it mean to me
MRSA is only dangerous for a person if his immune system is weakened due to other diseases and the germ that is already present or transmitted to him through inadequate hygiene in the hospital then leads to an infection. Healthy people always have bacteria on their skin. If one enlarges our skin extremely strongly, it would appear like a wild meadow: colonized with many different types of herbs or bacteria and fungi.
All these plants belong on the meadow to hold arable tops in place, just as fungi and bacteria belong on our skin to keep our skin healthy. If an MRSA-resistant germ settles on such healthy skin, it is usually eliminated by ourselves and does not lead to any danger: the bacterium dies from us, not us from the bacterium.
So you have to distinguish between the presence of the bacteria and the damage that these bacteria cause when they can spread out in a conversation. As a person, you don't have to worry about meeting someone who is colonized with MRSA. However, different rules apply to everyone who is employed in the medical sector: You must protect yourself and the patient by taking suitable hygienic measures so that the germ cannot be transferred from one person who is colonized with MRSA to another person or patient is transmitted in a hospital or outpatient setting.
What exactly is MRSA?
MRSA means methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Its immunity to many antibiotics is what makes the pathogen so dangerous. The MRSA germ is not, as many think, a virus, but a bacterium. It occurs on the skin and mucous membranes of many people. These bacteria often settle in the nose or throat, on the armpits or groin without you noticing. You stay healthy. The infection only breaks out when the bacteria enter the body through a wound and you still have a weakened immune system from illness or after an operation. Then the incubation period may be very short and you can become seriously ill within a few hours.
MRSA germs are everywhere. However, they are most common where antibiotic consumption is greatest. So it's no wonder that most MRSA infections occur in hospitals and nursing homes. Especially since patients and those in need of care often have a weakened immune system or open wounds. The pathogen can be transmitted in different ways:
- From person to person - mostly by hand
- Via contaminated objects such as doorknobs or handrails on stairs
- From farm animal to person
Possible symptoms - this is how an MRSA infection manifests itself
- Skin sores or ulcers
- Wound infections, especially after surgery
- Inflammation of individual organs, e.g. urinary tract or pneumonia or blood poisoning
- Rarely, circulatory or kidney failure with a high fever
Who is particularly at risk?
For healthy people, the risk of infection is low. The situation is different for the following groups of people:
- Hospital patients and those in need of care in retirement homes
- Dialysis patients, diabetics
- People with weakened immune systems
- Patients with foreign objects such as catheters or joint replacements
- People with skin injuries
This is how you can protect yourself
It is particularly important to know that among all hygiene measures the most effective and important is still removing dirt and germs under running water. So wash and especially include the spaces between the fingers and the nails.
The other measures such as disinfectants etc. are only there to remove the rest, but cannot replace hand washing under any circumstances.
To effectively prevent infection, the following applies in hospitals, nursing homes and also at home: Hygiene is the be-all and end-all. Correct hand washing is the most important protection against MRSA and many other pathogens. Disinfectants for hands and surfaces should also be used by caregivers at home.
How to contribute to good hygiene:
- Wash hands regularly and several times a day with soap and water
- Cover wounds cleanly
- Do not share hygiene items such as towels, washcloths, razors
- Wash textiles such as bed linen at at least 60 degrees and dry them in the tumble dryer
The Robert Koch Institute expressly recommends MRSA screening. Before operations, it is better to treat prophylactically with antibiotics and to fight infections early and in a more targeted manner. 80% of the people in whom MRSA is detected in the hospital have already brought the pathogen with them. It is therefore a good idea to test patients before starting hospital treatment. In this way, MRSA can be prevented from spreading right from the start through perfect hygiene measures and, above all, isolating the patient.
An MRSA test is painless and easy. A swab is taken where the pathogen occurs most often, namely in the nasal cavity, throat or in a wound. The smear is examined in the laboratory and provides the result after a few days. In some places there are also MRSA rapid tests, the so-called PCR tests. They are more expensive, but deliver reliable results after just a few hours.
In any case, all surgery patients with risk factors should be tested. In order to avoid the spread of the pathogen, MRSA pathogens must be identified before a hospital stay. Numerous studies show that screening can significantly reduce the disease rate and significantly shorten the length of stay. So not only does screening prevent the spread of infection, it also saves money.
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