Staph can be transmitted directly, from person to person contact, or indirectly by coming into contact with staph on objects such as clothing, sports equipment, etc. Many steps can be taken to reduce one’s risk of contracting a staph infection. In general, good hygiene such as washing hands properly and frequently, keeping wounds covered, and not sharing personal items such as towels, razors, etc. can prevent the spread of infection. Similarly, in areas used for athletic training, it is important for gear and equipment to be sanitized regularly.
In addition to common sense hygiene, the overuse of antibiotics over many years has resulted in an ever growing population of antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA. Antibiotics are often misused by individuals who take them for things like colds, which are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Additionally, many individuals who do need an antibiotic to overcome a bacterial infection may not take the antibiotics properly, or may not finish a full prescription even when directed to do so by their physician. These examples of overuse and misuse of antibiotics have resulted in strains of bacteria, such as MRSA, that often require lengthy treatment with new antibiotics or combinations of antibiotics. These new drugs or combinations of drugs are often more expensive and more toxic than older antibiotics. In some instances, bacteria have become resistant to all available antibiotics – essentially returning us to the pre-antibiotic era of the 1930s, when people routinely succumbed to routine bacterial infections. This is why it is important for us to study staphylococci and practice antimicrobial stewardship, so we have a better understanding of how this organism causes disease and so we are better equipped to fight staphylococcal disease. This is what the UNMC Center for Staphylococcal Research is all about.