Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, is an antibiotic-resistant infection that often presents as a skin rash. A MRSA rash occurs when the Staphylococcus bacteria infect the skin, which is one of the most common sites of MRSA infections. This type of rash may appear different in different people; common variations include the appearance of boils, abscesses, impetigo, and a general reddening of the skin.
A MRSA rash is one of the first signs of the infection. At first, it may appear as red patches of skin that may be itchy or appear inflamed. As the infection grows, pus swarms into the infected area, creating raised bumps and cysts that look like pimples. Often, these will burst open, oozing pus and leaving an open, red sore on the infection site.
One of the biggest problems with MRSA infections is that they are incredibly contagious. People who are used to scrapes and cuts as a result of outdoor activity may not notice the infection and have no idea that they are carrying a potentially fatal infection. Any physical contact with a MRSA rash can result in infection; even touching an object that has been touched by an infected person can pass the bacterial infection as well. Locker rooms and dormitories are high risk areas for contracting these rashes, because of low hygiene standards and a high rate of physical interaction. Hospitals are also a major hub for the infection, particularly in intensive care units and post-operative areas.
If not promptly treated, or if the drug-resistant infection wards off medication, a MRSA rash can quickly spread both on the skin and inside the body. Symptoms that a rash has spread to internal organs include fever and chills, dropping blood pressure, and the development of heart or lung problems. In some cases, treatments are ineffective and death can occur in a very short span of time.
Traditional tests to determine if a skin infection is a MRSA rash are done through nasal or tissue samples. Some areas now use rapid DNA testing, since other testing methods can take up to two days for results. Treatment is often with antibiotics that have been shown to work on MRSA infections, but doctors may also try to treat the rash without drugs. Since MRSA is already drug-resistant, there is concern that using new antibiotics could allow the bacteria to develop even more resistance.
Most of the time, skin will heal normally and not leave marks or scars. Some people may experience hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, for several months after the rash has been treated. In severe cases, if scars occur, some doctors recommend using vitamin E oil or scar-reducing treatments after the rash is gone to minimize noticeable scarring.