Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that can live in the nose, on the skin, or in the lower intestine. MRSA is a form of Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to the usual antibiotics used to treat it. Some people carry, or become colonized with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria but do not have an infection. However, sometimes Staphylococcus aureus causes infections, which means that the bacterium is making them sick. 


MRSA can be spread or transmitted to other people through touch. MRSA can be spread on the hands of health care providers and medical equipment, if not properly disinfected. It can survive on regular surfaces and on hands for hours to days. MRSA can live on the skin or in the nose without causing any signs or symptoms of an infection. These bacteria usually do not harm the person; however, they can be transferred to a susceptible person and cause an infection. Hospitalized patients who already have weakened immune systems or who have open wounds, catheters or other invasive devices are more susceptible to an infection with MRSA. MRSA does not travel through the air.

Treatment and control of MRSA

MRSA colonization can be successfully treated with antibiotics, an antibiotic ointment to the nose and an antibacterial soap. Patients who are identified as having MRSA are placed in isolation precautions and treated with antibiotics to help eradicate the bacteria. Gowns and gloves are worn to prevent contact spread of the bacterium. Masks are worn so that health care workers and others do not become colonized in the nose by touching it with contaminated gloves.

At home: MRSA is not a problem in the home environment because it poses little threat to healthy people. However, if a patient is on home care, these nurses must take special precautions because they look after many sick patients. Good hand washing is the key to decrease the risk of spread. 

If the patient returns to hospital, it is important to let the doctor or nurse know that  the patient had MRSA so that their status can be reevaluated. 


North York General Hospital regularly monitors and reviews infection rates and uses this information to execute best practice protective measures and continually improve patient care and safety.

Access the NYGH  rate of hospital-acquired MRSA bloodstream infections (calculated as the total number of hospital-acquired MRSA bloodstream infections per 1,000 inpatient days) and the absolute number of cases in the monthly reporting period.

What we are doing to improve patient safety

Our hospital has undertaken many initiatives to provide patients with safer care. One of these, North York General’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) initiative, is improving patient safety in a number of ways, including:

  • Developing a comprehensive system for screening and surveillance of high-risk patients for infectious syndromes (e.g. diarrhea, meningitis, etc.) and antibiotic-resistant organisms (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, vancomycin-resistant enterococci or VRE, C. difficile, etc.)
  • Enhancing our Infection Prevention and Control Program
  • Actively implementing an aggressive hand washing campaign across the entire hospital to dramatically increase hand washing compliance rates
  • Engaging North York General staff in developing plans to respond to pandemic influenza.