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MRSA and MSSA infections

This patient guide answers some commonly asked questions about MRSA and MSSA infections.

What does MRSA and MSSA stand for?

Meticillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) and the resistant strain, Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

What is MSSA / MRSA?

MSSA / MRSA are bacteria that are not normally a problem to the general public or people in their own homes but it can affect those who are ill.  They are often found in the on the skin and/or in the noses of healthy people.  Although it is usually harmless at these sites, it may occasionally get into the body, through breaks in the skin such as abrasions, cuts, wounds, surgical incisions or indwelling catheters and cause infections. These infections may be mild, for example pimples or boils or more serious infection, for example in the bloodstream, bones or joints.

How do people get MRSA?

Although MRSA is carried in the nose and other body sites without causing problems, the bacteria can spread easily from one person to another by hands or clothes. 

MRSA can also be spread by:

  • People infecting themselves by touching breaks in the skin
  • Passing it on to others by touching a wound or handling equipment around them
  • People coming into direct contact with carriers or those   MRSA
  • Through contact with individuals who have not cleaned their hands - either by washing or using hand sanitiser

It is important for patients, staff and visitors to help prevent the bacteria spreading by careful hand washing, using hand sanitiser and good housekeeping to control dust.

What happens after being swabbed for MSSA / MRSA?

If your swabs are found to be MSSA / MRSA negative no MRSA was detected, you will not hear from us, and you can proceed with your admission as planned.

If your swabs are found to be MSSA / MRSA positive the team who took them will make arrangements for you to receive treatment to decolonise your skin and nose:

  • Octenisan® antimicrobial body wash once a day for five days
  • Bactroban® (Mupirocin) nasal ointment three times a day for five days

For patients in hospital, this will be written up by your doctor in your prescription chart.

For patients at home this may involve collecting a prescription from your GP or the hospital, which you may have to pay for. You may also then be asked to contact your GP or come into hospital e.g. Pre-operative Assessment Clinic for another set of swabs, for example before your operation.

For most people who test positive for MRSA, it will not affect how long you have to wait for your operation and you should not need to be screened again before your surgery. However, for some certain types of operation, for example a hip replacement, the surgeon may wish to see that you have had a set of negative swabs.


Treatment for all MRSA / MSSA positive patients is Octenisan® antimicrobial body wash.  This is applied as follows:

Octenisan® antimicrobial body wash instructions:

Use the body wash for five days to wash your body and on days two and four wash the hair as well.

  1. Ensure your hair and body are wet.
  2. Put body wash onto a clean damp wash cloth. Use a clean wash cloth each day and do not share this with anyone else.
  3. Wash the body all over for one minute. On days two and four wash your hair as well. Make sure you wash your armpits, stomach and groin area thoroughly.
  4. Rinse off thoroughly.
  5. Dry with a clean dry towel. Use a fresh towel each day.
  6. Put on clean day and night clothing each day.
  7. Continue to use this for the remainder of your inpatient stay.

Nose ointment Bactroban® (Mupirocin):

For some patients a nose ointment may also be needed Bactroban® (Mupirocin). This is applied three times each day for five days.

  1. Place a small amount of ointment, about the size of a match head on a cotton bud or on your finger and apply it to the inside of the nostril.
  2. Repeat for the other nostril.

3. Pinch the nostrils together to spread the ointment out.

4. Now wash your hands

The doctors may prescribe additional treatment, for example antibiotics, an antibacterial wound dressing or an antibacterial wound irrigation solution, depending on where the MSSA / MRSA is and whether it is causing an infection.

If you have any questions regarding your treatment please contact your GP or your Infection Prevention and Control Team.

You may be cared for in a side room whilst undergoing treatment for MRSA / MSSA.  Visitors will still be able to visit you, we ask that they clean their hands on arrival and before leaving the side room.

At home with MRSA:

  • If you are prescribed antibiotics ensure you complete the course, even if you feel better before you finish
  • Ask friends and family not to visit if they are prone to infection
  • Ask visitors and carers to wash hands before and after visiting you
  • If the district nurse is visiting to dress your wounds, ensure pets are kept away
  • Wash bedding and laundry at the highest temperature that the fabrics will allow. Normal soap powder is fine to use.

For further information please contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service who can signpost you appropriately.

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