ABILENE, Texas - Potentially fatal MRSA staph infections — which are prevalent in hospitals — are becoming increasingly common, according to health experts.
Hendrick Medical Center requires all critical care patients to be tested for MRSA. In November, the hospital implemented new MRSA testing technology to reduce the amount of time it takes to process test results from 24 hours to just one to two hours.
Laboratory scientists at Hendrick conduct approximately 50 tests each week and four to five test positive.
"MRSA is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus," Lisa Ross, a medical laboratory scientist at Hendrick, said. "It used to be really rare to find and now it's become a lot more prevalent in the hospital, especially, but in the community it's not something you want to have. It can be deadly so we try to find it as fast as we can."
A person can become infected with MRSA at virtually any time and any place. Contact sports and crowded, dirty conditions increase a person's risk of contracting MRSA.
The infection cannot be exterminated as easily as a regular staph infection and can infect a person's bones, joints, lungs, heart and bloodstream.
The infection starts as small, red bumps that may look like boils or spider bites. The bumps can eventually turn into abscesses that must be surgically drained.
"You can get it anywhere that your nose goes so if people are touching their nose — sneezing — then that's where you're going to get it," Ross said.
Since MRSA can be fatal if left untreated, an early diagnosis is absolutely necessary.
"The patients get a swab in their nostrils — that's because the bacteria grows there — and it's the easiest, most common place to get [the sample]… it's not going to injure the patient or inconvenience the patient that much," Ross said.
The sample is placed in liquid that has beads that attract the MRSA bacteria. The sample is then incubated for approximately one hour.