Jan. 5, 2011 -- The superbug staph infection, MRSA, has become a global health threat for adults and children, but antibiotics aren't needed to treat all cases, according to new guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, is a bacterium that is hard to kill with the most commonly used antibiotics. The superbug is responsible for about 60% of all skin infections seen in hospital emergency rooms. If the bacteria invade broken skin, life-threatening lung, blood, bone, joint, or nervous system infections can result.
The antibiotic vancomycin is often first prescribed for severe MRSA infections. However, there has been debate about whether or not antibiotics are necessary or helpful for minor MRSA skin infections, such as a simple boil. Overuse of antibiotics in general has fueled the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.
The IDSA's new guidelines provide the first authoritative MRSA treatment recommendations for doctors. A 13-panel board comprised of members of the Infectious Diseases Society, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed and endorsed the guidelines.
The guidelines address the treatment of:
MRSA skin and soft tissue infections in non-hospitalized patients
MRSA skin infections that keep coming back or do not get better with antibiotic treatment
MRSA infections that have spread to the lungs, bones, joints, blood, or heart
Newborns infected with the superbug
The 38-page document also provides specific recommendations regarding the use of vancomycin and alternative antibiotics, and calls for the development of new and better medicines for treating MRSA. It does not address MRSA surveillance or prevention. The CDC says proper hand-washing and good hygiene are the best defense against MRSA infections.