Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Abounds

Hand washing remains key protection against MRSA bacteria


Dr. Alan Michels, the doctor in charge of infection control, says Payson Regional Medical Center has reduced MRSA by 17 percent by frequently culturing bacteria before prescribing antibiotics.

Dr. Alan Michels, the doctor in charge of infection control, says Payson Regional Medical Center has reduced MRSA by 17 percent by frequently culturing bacteria before prescribing antibiotics. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Monstrous MRSA infections have made headlines; but the doctors first identified the so-called “flesh eating bacteria” in 1961.

Dr. Alan Michels, an internal medicine practitioner and medical director for Payson Care Center, talked about MRSA and infection control last week.

MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a type of Staph immune to some of the most common antibiotic treatments. About one in three people have some variety of Staph bacteria on their skin or in their nose.

The bacteria generally does not cause problems, but in the right situation, it can become a serious infection on the skin, in wounds, in the lungs or in the blood.

Some two-thirds of hospitals have MRSA bacteria said Michels, since it collects where the sickest people concentrate and about 65 percent of the population carries Staph that can evolve into MRSA.

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Dr. Alan Michels, the doctor in charge of infection control, says Payson Regional Medical Center has reduced MRSA by 17 percent by frequently culturing bacteria before prescribing antibiotics.

People most at risk of a MRSA infection include those with other health conditions making them sick; a recent stay in a hospital or nursing home; and those treated with antibiotics.

People with MRSA can spread it to other people, but it also spreads from contaminated bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures and medical equipment.

Payson Regional Medical Center has addressed the threat of MRSA by frequently culturing bacteria before prescribing an antibiotic, he said (Michels is also the doctor in charge of infection control).

“We have reduced MRSA by 17 percent,” he said.

Some antibiotics can kill MRSA, either as pills or through an IV. The biggest deterrent to the spread of MRSA remains good hand washing: a detergent or soap (regular or antibacterial) only lifts the germs from the hands; to get rid of them, good rinsing is required.

Hand sanitizers can kill some of the germs, to a level of safety; but a gel sanitizer should be allowed to air-dry instead of rubbing it in until dries.

The use of an actual disinfectant will totally kill the germ, Michels said.

Using hot water to wash the bed and bathroom linens and clothing of someone with a MRSA infection is also advised.

He also recommended not using someone else’s personal belongings.

“MRSA is not new. It is not really anymore aggressive than other infections, there are just fewer options to treat it,” Michels said.

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