Health Education

MRSA treatment and medications

Cropped SingleCare logo By | January 15, 2020
Medically reviewed by Jeff Fortner, Pharm.D.

What is MRSA? | MRSA diagnosis | MRSA treatment options | MRSA medications | Best MRSA medications | Side effects of MRSA | MRSA home remedies | FAQ | Resources

If you’re spending time in hospitals, nursing homes, or other health care facilities, you may be at risk of contracting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA infection. It’s a scary condition to tackle—and not just because of its extremely long name. MRSA can cause painful and swollen sores that aren’t curable with some medications. But what exactly is a MRSA infection and how can you treat it when it occurs? Let’s take a look at this skin infection and how you can get treatment.

What is MRSA?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a specific type of bacteria, also called staph, which can cause infection and has become resistant to common antibiotic treatments, such as methicillin. CDC.gov estimates that 5% of patients in United States hospitals are carriers for MRSA via their skin or nose. This is part of the reason that a majority of patients contract a MRSA infection while at a hospital or other healthcare facility.

The CDC describes the spread of MRSA in healthcare settings as mostly by direct contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands, usually those of healthcare providers. The spread of MRSA in the general community is typically through the sharing of personal items such as razors, washcloths, towels, or other items that may have come into contact with the infected skin. The CDC also states those who inject drugs are also 16 times more likely to contract MRSA, a result of the opioid epidemic.

How is a MRSA infection diagnosed?

It is important for patients to seek medical treatment or consult a doctor as soon as possible for any infection, and especially if MRSA is suspected. Soft-tissue infections can vary greatly in size, severity, and location. Meaning, a patient may only have a short window of time for easy, effective treatment. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for any MRSA symptoms, especially after a hospital stay. Because MRSA is a staph infection, the early symptoms look the same as other skin infections. You may notice a skin infection that resembles a spider bite, large pimple, or a red and painful bump. However, when you begin to develop a fever or the skin infection fills with pus, then it is time to see a doctor.

Since MRSA can present in a variety of ways, the way you are diagnosed will vary. If you have a staph infection or cellulitis then a healthcare provider will likely look at the infected area and collect a sample. Some healthcare providers have access to tests that provide them with accurate results within a matter of hours, while many others may require 48 hours for lab processing. You may also need to provide a nasal secretion sample so that your healthcare provider can check for antibiotic resistance.

MRSA treatment options

Once you’ve been diagnosed with a MRSA infection then it is time to look at treatment options. While the staph bacteria with MRSA are resistant to certain antibiotics, “it is readily treatable with a wide variety of antibiotics,” explains Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a board-certified infectious disease specialist. The great news is that it is possible to fully eliminate it from your body.

Your treatment will likely depend on how you contracted the MRSA bacteria and the severity of your symptoms. “Patients should know MRSA is a very common staph infection that has the ability to cause a wide range of infections that range from the innocuous to the serious,” says Dr. Adalja.

If you have an abscess (a swollen area containing pus), draining the pus and taking oral antibiotics may be the first line of treatment—especially if the infected area is small and the condition appears mild. If you have a serious infection, or if MRSA gets into your bloodstream, then you may need intravenous antibiotics. “The approach to treatment is entirely dependent on the location of the infection and its severity,” explains Dr. Adalja. “For example, a skin infection may require just a short course of oral antibiotics while a bloodstream infection may require weeks of intravenous antibiotics.”

MRSA medications

Antibiotics

Depending on your specific antibiotic resistance with a MRSA infection, you may be given one or more antibiotic treatments to try. Antibiotics are the most commonly used and accepted form of treatment for MRSA patients because the condition is caused by bacteria.

Common antibiotics for treatment of MRSA include sulfamethoxazole with trimethoprim, clindamycin, vancomycin, daptomycin, linezolid, tedizolid, doxycycline, minocycline, omadacycline, and delafloxacin. Your treatment may vary due to the nature of a MRSA infection, your medical history, and other prescriptions you may be taking.

What are the best medications for MRSA?

Best MRSA medications
Drug name Drug class Administration route Standard dosage Common side effects
Bactrim
(sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim)
Antibiotic Oral 1 or 2 double-strength tablets by mouth twice daily Upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea
Cleocin (clindamycin) Antibiotic Oral 450 mg by mouth 3 times daily Vomiting, unpleasant or metallic taste in the mouth, and joint pain
Vancocin (vancomycin) Antibiotic Intravenous Dose based on patient info such as age, weight, health, etc. Low blood pressure, flushing, chills, rash
Cubicin
(daptomycin)
Antibiotic Intravenous Dose based on patient info such as age, weight, health, etc. Insomnia, chest pain, swelling, diarrhea
Zyvox
(linezolid)
Antibiotic Oral 600 mg tablet or liquid suspension by mouth twice daily Diarrhea, headache, nausea
Sivextro
(tedizolid)
Antibiotic Oral 200 mg tablet or liquid suspension by mouth twice daily Nausea, headache, diarrhea
Oracea (doxycycline) Antibiotic Oral 100 mg by mouth twice daily Diarrhea, headache, nausea
Minocin
(minocycline)
Antibiotic Oral 200 mg capsule by mouth once, then 100 mg by mouth twice daily Dizziness, fatigue, itching
Baxdela
(delafloxacin)
Antibiotic Oral 450 mg by mouth twice daily Diarrhea, nausea, headache

Dosage is determined by your doctor based on your medical condition, response to treatment, age, weight, and other factors. Other possible side effects exist. This is not a complete list.

What are common side effects of MRSA medication?

Generally speaking, MRSA medications tend to have similar risk factors and side effects. This is because antibiotics are the primary form of treatment for MRSA. Stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea can occur when taking antibiotics, especially when they are taken on an empty stomach. Some antibiotics used for MRSA treatment can have side effects such as itching, headache, rash, joint pain, and a metallic taste in the mouth. These side effects are not as common but can still occur. If you notice any serious side effects you should contact your doctor immediately. These are not all of the possible side effects of MRSA medications.

What are the best home remedies for MRSA?

While there are options that can help prevent or possibly treat MRSA at home, seeking help from a doctor is still a strongly recommended first step. The use of antibiotics coupled with different at-home treatments may help you recover more quickly from MRSA. You can also use this section to help to prevent MRSA or reduce the chance of sharing it with someone else.

  • Do not share personal items such as razors, brushes, washcloths, and towels.
  • Keep your fingernails short to prevent scratches and to halt bacteria growth that can occur under the nails.
  • Wash sheets and bed linens in hot water once per week and dry on the highest heat setting after washing.
  • Wash any cuts, scrapes, or scratches immediately with antibacterial soap and keep the area covered and clean. Use hand sanitizer if soap is not readily available.
  • Wash towels and clothing after each use.

MRSA natural and home remedy often asked questions

Does coconut oil kill MRSA?

There is quite a bit of mixed information about coconut oil and its effect on MRSA, as well as other bacteria. Some natural health websites claim that MRSA can easily be cured with coconut oil, while other resources claim that coconut oil has no real antibacterial properties. The answer is a bit of a gray area. It’s better not rely entirely on coconut oil to kill, cure, or prevent MRSA.

Does apple cider vinegar kill MRSA?

One study showed that apple cider vinegar can be effective in killing bacteria that is responsible for MRSA. This means that you may be able to use apple cider vinegar in aiding the treatment of a bacterial infection such as MRSA.

Which essential oils kill MRSA?

A study at the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that there are, in fact, some essential oils that can be used to treat MRSA biofilms. Tea tree, thyme, and peppermint oils were found to have antimicrobial properties.

Can rubbing alcohol kill MRSA?

In one study, different solutions of rubbing alcohol were tested to inhibit MRSA growth. Only solutions that were 95% or 100% alcohol were found effective in growth inhibition.

Does garlic kill MRSA?

It may seem odd, but garlic has been recently been praised as a superbug killer. Some doctors and hospitals are testing the use of garlic and its antibacterial properties.

Frequently asked questions about MRSA

Is MRSA contagious?

Yes, MRSA is highly contagious when someone has skin contact with infected materials or items. This is why it is common for MRSA patients to contract the bacteria at a hospital while seeking treatment for something else.

Can you ever get rid of MRSA? / Can MRSA be cured?

Yes, MRSA is a curable condition. Depending on how severe MRSA is, or which antibiotics your condition is resistant to, it may take some time for treatment to work. However, curing MRSA is completely possible!

How long does it take for MRSA to go away?

This will depend on the type of treatment and the location of the MRSA. Typically, you can expect treatment to last for 7 to 14 days, although you may notice it clear up before you finish your antibiotic treatment. It’s critical to complete your entire course of prescribed antibiotics. Because even if the infection appears to be gone, if you stop taking the antibiotics early, the infection may come back worse than before!

Can a MRSA infection go away on its own?

While it is possible for MRSA to go away on its own, you shouldn’t rely on that possibility. It’s possible for a MRSA skin infection to get worse, or even enter the bloodstream, requiring intensive treatment and a stay in the hospital. So it’s best to seek treatment from a doctor early when taking antibiotics by mouth at home can be most effective at curing the infection.

How is MRSA treated? / What is the best treatment for MRSA?

Typically, MRSA is treated using antibiotics. It’s important to determine which antibiotics your MRSA may be resistant to before undergoing treatment. However, in mild cases, it may be sufficient for doctors to simply lance, or pop, the pus-filled infected area, then watch to see if the body’s immune system kills off the infection. If a case of severe MRSA occurs, or if it enters the bloodstream, then intravenous antibiotic treatment is likely necessary.

What drugs are used to treat MRSA?

Antibiotics are the most commonly used medications to treat MRSA. See the table above for more information on:

  • Sulfamethoxazole with trimethoprim
  • Clindamycin
  • Vancomycin
  • Daptomycin
  • Linezolid
  • Tedizolid
  • Doxycycline
  • Minocycline
  • Omadacycline
  • Delafloxacin

Why is MRSA so difficult to treat?

By definition, MRSA is a condition that involves antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In fact, the R in MRSA stands for resistant. This makes it difficult to find the appropriate treatment because MRSA may not respond to dozens of antibiotics which are usually used for similar types of infections.

Can MRSA be treated without antibiotics?

A doctor can treat mild MRSA infections without antibiotics. Some doctors may lance, meaning carefully pop, and clean the area that has been infected, without using any antibiotics. You may also be able to treat mild infections with at-home remedies such as apple cider vinegar. However, the effectiveness of at-home treatments cannot be guaranteed, so always consult your doctor before deciding on a treatment plan.

Resources