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What is MRSA in the Sputum?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria in the mucus is known as MRSA in the sputum. Presenting most frequently in cases of MRSA lung infection, or MRSA-based pneumonia, it can spread the contagious infection to others if it is not handled properly. Treatment for MRSA-based lung infection often requires hospitalization and the administration of aggressive antibiotic therapy.

The presence of MRSA infection is generally confirmed through several diagnostic tests. Individuals will usually undergo a series of cultures that are performed on their blood and urine to determine the bacterial basis for their infection. Those who have symptoms of a MRSA lung infection will usually undergo a sputum culture, which requires that a sample of mucus be taken and sent for laboratory analysis. Individuals who acquire an active infection may develop a variety of symptoms that progress rapidly from mild to severe.

How the symptoms appear is entirely dependent on the location of the initial infection. Those who acquire infection through skin contact may initially present with skin irritation and the formation of cutaneous abscesses. As the infection spreads, individuals may develop flu-like symptoms that include fever, chills and widespread muscle aches. An infection that settles in the lungs will usually trigger a persistent cough, shortness of breath, and mucus drainage. Individuals with suspected MRSA in the sputum should take proactive measures to cover their mouth when coughing and sneezing to prevent the spread of infection to others.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection's rapid progression usually requires prompt, appropriate medical treatment to prevent a worsening of symptoms and ensure a good prognosis. An individual who contracts the infection may not immediately show pneumonic symptoms, but as the infection progresses, his or her condition may rapidly deteriorate. Individuals with a MRSA lung infection often require multi-faceted treatment that requires hospitalization.

Due to its high mortality rate, MRSA-based pneumonia requires assertive treatment measures. Individuals with MRSA-based pneumonia may be placed in isolation away from other patients so their condition may be stabilized without placing others at risk for infection. Aggressive antibiotic treatment and supplemental oxygen are usually given, along with intravenous fluids to stabilize the individual’s condition and ease his or her respiration.

Originating from exposure to the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, MRSA infection is most commonly associated with the overuse of antibiotic medication. Certain individuals who overuse or do not completely finish an antibiotic regimen inadvertently increase their susceptibility to certain bacterium and infections, such as MRSA. Classified as a form of staph infection, MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics and usually transmitted through direct contact with a dermal abrasion, such as a cut or scratch.

The ubiquitous nature of this bacteria makes it difficult to avoid exposure. Individuals may be exposed to it through everyday interactions with others or while in a medical setting, such as a hospital or clinic. It is important to note that not everyone who comes into contact with MRSA will develop an infection. Individuals who have recently had surgery or possess compromised immunity are usually considered to be at an increased risk.

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Discussion Comments
By anon939006 — On Mar 11, 2014

This is garbage. Nearly 50 percent of the population has MRSA now. All it does it makes infections a little worse and cannot be controlled by some antibiotics. Vancomycin kills it. I'm a 24 year old female and I had double pneumonia, two strains of flu, a bacterial infection and MRSA in my sputum (snot). I had lung surgery and spent almost two months in the hospital/nursing home (to recover and take vanco through an IV).

I've been home for two weeks and I'm fine, minus getting short of breath easily because I haven't yet gotten full strength back. But ever since I've been back, everyone thinks I'm a hazard, that they can't eat/drink after, wash near, kiss, hug, or touch the same objects as someone with MRSA.

This is all ridiculous. As long as I don't literally wipe my snot in someone's open wound, I won't "infect" you. Besides, you're probably already infected or at least a carrier. MRSA is no big deal and people with it shouldn't be treated as a hazard.

By anon320800 — On Feb 19, 2013

I did not think so, but MRSA in the sputum can lead to MRSA pneumonia. I had MRSA pneumonia in April 2012 and was on life support for four days and spent an additional week in the hospital.

I was diagnosed with MRSA in my sputum about 30 days ago when I was in the hospital for bronchitis and laryngitis. I had preexisting problems that are unrelated to the MRSA infections that involve my heart and lungs. From what I understand MRSA in the sputum can lead to lung infections but you really need to be careful that you do not infect others. Have you been diagnosed with MRSA? And if so, were you given any types of antibiotics or hospitalized for IV therapy of any kind? Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

By anon288964 — On Sep 01, 2012

Is sputum contaminated with MRSA considered pneumonia?

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