D R . M E R C O L A
MRSA: How to Keep This Deadly
Super Bug From Infecting You
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MRSA: How to Keep This Deadly Super Bug
From Infecting You
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a serious public health problem,
one that is getting progressively worse and actually exacts a greater death toll than
?modern plagues? like AIDS.
In fact, a 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found
there were close to 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA infections in the United States in
2005 (one of the most recent years for which data is available), which lead to more than
18,600 deaths, compared to HIV/AIDS, which killed 17,000 people that same year.
Typically, staph bacteria is relatively harmless
and up to 30 percent of people carry staph
bacteria in their nose without it causing an
If the bacteria enter your body through a cut,
it may cause an infection (staph bacteria is
one of the most common causes of skin
infections in the United States) but even
these are typically mild and can be easily
Unlike typical staph bacteria, MRSA is much more dangerous because it has become
resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it, such as methicillin,
oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin.
This ?super bug? is constantly adapting, meaning it is capable of outsmarting even new
antibiotics that come on the market.
Because MRSA can be so difficult to treat, it can easily progress from a superficial skin
infection to a life-threatening infection in your bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves,
lungs, or surgical wounds.
Why is Bacteria Becoming Antibiotic-Resistant?
Before I delve into the details about MRSA, including how you can best avoid infection,
it?s important to realize that antibiotic-resistant disease is a man-made problem, caused
by overuse of antibiotics.
It is not merely a lack of hygiene or proper disinfection techniques that have brought
these super bugs to the point of being impervious to nearly all medications we have at
Antibiotics are not only over-prescribed in modern medicine, they are also widely overused
in agriculture — a fact that is grossly overlooked.
About 70 percent of antibiotic use in the United States is for agricultural purposes.3
Animals are often fed antibiotics at low doses for disease prevention and growth
promotion, and those antibiotics are transferred to you via meat and even manure used
So, the agriculture industry?s practice of using antibiotics, along with the overuse of
antibiotics for medicine, is indeed a driving force behind the development of antibiotic
resistance in a now wide variety of bacteria that cause human disease — including
How Can You Catch MRSA?
MRSA is spread through contact, which means you can get it by touching a person or
object that has the bacteria on them.
Most commonly, MRSA is picked up in a hospital or other
health care setting such as a nursing home or dialysis
center. In this case, it?s known as health care-associated
Six out of seven people infected with MRSA contract it at a
health-care facility,4 where the infection can show up in
surgical wounds or around feeding tubes, catheters or other
Rates of MRSA in health care settings have been climbing
steadily, and a recent study of UK nursing homes found 24
percent of residents and 7 percent of staff were colonized
with MRSA, which means they were carrying the bacteria on
their skin but not necessarily showing signs of infection.
In the general population, only about 1 percent are MRSA carriers.
Further, a 2007 report from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and
Epidemiology estimated that 46 out of every 1,000 people hospitalized are infected or
colonized with MRSA.
In fact, simply spending time in a hospital, particularly if you have a weakened immune
system, underlying health problem or surgical wound, is a risk factor for MRSA, as is
living in a nursing home or having any type of invasive medical device, such as a
catheter, feeding tube, or being on dialysis.
However, hospitals are no longer the only place where MRSA is spreading.
MRSA is Now Infecting Healthy People Too
Community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA, accounts for about 14 percent of MRSA
infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Those with CA-MRSA have had no recent exposures to health care settings and are
otherwise healthy. It?s not entirely known why some people can carry MRSA on their
skin without even knowing while others come down with a serious infection ? nor why
some infections are mild while others are deadly.
However, certain factors above and beyond spending time in a health care setting may
increase your risk of being infected, and these include:
? Age (the elderly and children are more at risk)
? Recent antibiotic use
? Living in crowded conditions, such as in the military or in prison
? Participation in contact sports (the bacteria can spread via skin-to-skin contact
and through abrasions)
? Sharing towels or athletic equipment (MRSA can be spread on razors, uniforms,
? Living with someone who works in a health care setting
? Having a weakened immune system
Signs and Symptoms of MRSA
A MRSA skin infection typically starts out as small, red, pimple-like bumps or boils.
These may progress into deep, painful abscesses, and your skin may be:
If the bacteria penetrate deeper into your body, past
your skin, they may infect your lungs, leading to:
? Shortness of breath
Other serious symptoms may also develop if the bacteria enter your bloodstream, heart,
bones or joints.
If you suspect you have a MRSA infection, tests are available to detect the drugresistant
bacteria. If you have a skin abscess, it may need to be drained, or in more
serious cases the antibiotic vancomycin may still be used successfully to treat resistant
Natural Approaches to Preventing MRSA
First and foremost, everyone needs to take the issue of antibiotic use seriously. This is
of course an issue that must be addressed on a large scale, both within modern
medicine and agriculture, but you also need to evaluate your own use of antibiotics, and
avoid taking them — or giving them to your children — unless absolutely necessary.
You can also reduce your exposure to antibiotics by choosing organic meat and dairy
products for your family, as these will be antibiotic-free.
Aside from that, here are a few other sound methods that can greatly hinder the spread
of infectious disease, including MRSA.
1. Wash Your Hands ? and Make Sure Your Doctor Does Too
Handwashing, which is one of the oldest and most powerful antibacterial
treatments, may be the key to preventing MRSA.
According to a Johns Hopkins study, the best way for patients to avoid such
infections is for doctors and nurses to simply wash their hands before touching a
patient. This is the most common violation in hospitals!
Guidelines to proper hand-washing include:
? Wash your hands for 10 to 15 seconds with warm water
? Use plain soap
? Clean all the nooks and crannies of your hands, including under
? Rinse thoroughly under running water
? In public places use a paper towel to open the door as a protection from
germs that harbor on handles
And remember to AVOID using antibacterial soaps. These soaps are completely
unnecessary and could easily do more harm than good. As a matter of fact, the
antibacterial compounds found in most of these soaps are another likely
contributing factor to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Don?t become obsessive about washing your hands, however; if you wash them
too frequently you can actually extract many of the protective oils in your skin,
which can cause your skin to crack and bleed.
It is important to realize that your skin is actually your primary defense against
bacteria — not the soap.
It is rare for a germ on your skin to cause a problem — it is typically only an issue
when you transfer that to your nose, mouth or an open wound like cracked skin.
So obsessive-compulsive washing can actually increase your risk of getting sick
by providing an entryway for potentially dangerous pathogens like MRSA.
2. Avoid Sharing Your Personal Items:
Since MRSA can spread by contact with contaminated objects, keep personal
items like towels, clothing, bed linens, athletic equipment, razors and more to
3. Use Natural Disinfectants:
As with antibacterial hand soaps, antibacterial house cleaners are also best
avoided. A natural all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters,
cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Just put
each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed
by the other.
4. Eat Garlic:
Researchers have found that allicin, the active compound in garlic, is an
effective, natural ?antibiotic? that can eradicate even antibiotic-resistant bugs like
MRSA. An added boon is that the bacteria appear incapable of developing a
resistance to the compound.
However, it is important to note that the garlic must be fresh. The active
ingredient is destroyed within one hour of smashing the garlic, so garlic pills are
virtually worthless and should not be used.
Instead, compress the garlic with a spoon prior to swallowing it (if you are not
going to juice it). If you swallow the clove intact you will not convert the allicin to
its active ingredient.
On a larger scale, making door handles, taps and light
switches from copper could also help defeat antibioticresistant
super bugs, according to scientists. Researchers
have discovered that copper fittings rapidly kill bugs in
hospital wards, succeeding where other infection control
Lab tests show that the metal can effectively kill off MRSA
along with other dangerous germs, including the flu virus and
the E coli food poisoning bug.
In tests sponsored by the Copper Development Association
Inc., a grouping of 100 million MSRA bacterium atrophied and
died in a mere 90 minutes when placed on a copper surface at room temperature. The
same number of MSRA bacteria on steel and aluminum surfaces actually increased
It is likely that by installing copper faucets, light switches, toilet seats and push plates in
germ-infested areas, hospitals and nursing homes could quite literally save thousands
of lives each year.
You could also consider taking the same measures in your own home, especially if you
care for someone with chronically poor immune function.
Of course, another important way for you to avoid getting a serious MRSA infection is to
keep your own immune system in top working order. As always, eating healthy,
exercising and tending to your emotional health will be your ?Three Musketeers? to
keeping dangerous bacteria, even super bugs, away.
1 Journal of the American Medical Association 2007 Oct 17;298(15):1763-71.
2 WebMD.com ?Understanding MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus)?
aureus (Accessed June 25, 2009)
3 Mercola.com ?70% of All Antibiotic Use Is In Agriculture?
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/01/26/agriculture.aspx (Accessed June 25, 2009)
4 The Seattle Times, ?How Our Hospitals Unleashed a MRSA Epidemic,? November 16, 2008
June 25, 2009)
5 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Volume 57 Issue 4, Pages 620 ? 626
6 MayoClinic.com MRSA Infection: Risk Factors
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mrsa/DS00735/DSECTION=risk-factors (Accessed June 25, 2009)
7 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fact Sheet: Invasive MRSA October 17, 2007
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_mrsa_Invasive_FS.html (Accessed June 25, 2009)
8 Mercola.com ?The Completely Natural and Safe “Antibiotic”? November 1, 2004
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/11/17/handwashing.aspx (Accessed June 25, 2009)
9 Mercola.com ?Garlic Extract Helps Ward Off Drug-Resistant Bugs? December 19, 2001
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/01/05/garlic-part-three.aspx (Accessed June 25,
10 Mail Online, ?Copper door handles and taps kill 95% of superbugs in hospitals? October 29, 2008
html (Accessed June 25, 2009)