“Ground Zero” for MRSA Colonization – The Nose

On this blog, we have spoken many times about the dangers of MRSA. It is now time to explore how MRSA can be detected, and what areas of the body are most often colonized.

MRSA is a versatile bacterium that lives on the skin surface. Up to 30%-40% of people have been shown to carry Staphylococcus aureus, which in its resistant forms, is commonly known as MRSA. In addition, those who are excluded from the previously stated statistic, known as non-carriers, are not necessarily free from all bacteria. Instead, their skin may be better suited for other types of bacteria.

There are big differences in colonization characteristics where MRSA is concerned.   A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology pointed to the nose as the highest anatomical colonization site of MRSA. This also means that the nose can be the most relevant area for determining MRSA colonization.  MRSA carriers who have been found to be colonized in the nose may not have the bacteria at other body sites, making detection difficult to spot and control. Knowing the extent of MRSA colonization and which body sites it commonly occurs at is important because a strong correlation has been shown between colonization and the subsequent development of serious infections.

The best way of determining the range of colonization is by taking several samples across the body. This can be extremely expensive, as are the overall costs associated with MRSA infection and treatment. On the other hand, the knowledge that the nose is important for MRSA colonization gives us a remarkable advantage. This understanding can help doctors develop cheaper and more efficient protocols for MRSA detection.

Finally, this leads us to an interesting question. In light of the costs associated with MRSA treatment, as well as the knowledge that millions of people are carriers, should, or could, the best solution be to decolonize all patients entering a hospital?

Source: Mermel LA et al. (2011) Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) colonization at different body sites: A prospective, quantitative analysis. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, published online ahead of print on 5 January 2011.

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One Response to ““Ground Zero” for MRSA Colonization – The Nose”

  1. Roberto says:

    A friend of mine has a compromised immune system due to liver cirrhosis. She developed a persistent nasal condition which her ENT has tentatively diagnosed as a sinus infection. He prescribed Nasonex and saline irrigation, but after 8 months there’s still no improvement. She had no previous allergies, and her symptoms first presented a few weeks after undergoing a lung capacity test at the hospital.

    After seeing the MRSAid light therapy device on TV it occurred to me that she might have actually picked up MRSA from contaminated test equipment. I’ve suggested that she have her ENT doc do a swab confirm this, in which case she could benefit from such treatment.

    In the meantime I’ve read (in Pub Med) that colloidal silver, although ineffective (ie; as a “quack” cure-all remedy) IS actually quite effective against MRSA specifically. So perhaps a silver formulated nasal spray might afford her some relief and prevent further colonization in the meantime.

    Since it’s also cheap & accessible, I’m thinking there’d be no real harm (aside from possible argyria with prolonged or excessive use) in her trying it.. I’ll let you know how it works out.

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