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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

This Just In…The Latest Research Findings

Understanding and Controlling MRSA

MRSA (pron. MUHR-suh) is a type of "staph" bacterium that can cause infections in humans that are difficult to treat with several common antibiotics. MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It's sometimes called a "super bug" because of its resistance to some antibiotics.

Most serious staph infections occur in people with weak immune systems, such as patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities. These are known as healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). Over the past several years, MRSA infections in people not considered high-risk have increased. These infections, known as community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA), occur in otherwise healthy people who have no history of hospitalization in the last year. Many such infections have occurred among athletes who share equipment or personal items (such as towels or razors) and children in daycare facilities.

Staph skin infections normally cause a red, swollen, and painful area on the skin. More serious staph infections can have symptoms that include rash, fever, chills, chest pain, muscle aches, and fatigue.

To help prevent community-associated MRSA, you should:

  • Practice good hygiene
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed
  • Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as towels, washcloths, razors, or clothes
  • Wash soiled sheets, towels, and clothes in hot water with bleach and dry in a hot dryer.

In February, researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health reported a promising approach to blocking staph infections. The researchers used a drug that had been tested in clinical trials for lowering cholesterol.

"Although the results are still very preliminary, they offer a promising new lead for developing drugs to treat a very timely and medically important health concern," says NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.

To find out more, go to www.medlineplus.gov and type "MRSA" into the Search box.

A man stretching

Photo: iStock

Exercise: Fountain of Youth?

A recent research study of 2,000 sets of twins by researchers at King's College in London shows that people who exercise have longer leukocyte telomeres. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes. As cells go through normal rounds of division, the telomeres shrink, and eventually the cell can no longer divide and dies. Telomeres are biological markers of age. Normally, they shorten over time. The study authors found that the relationship between telomere length and the rate of exercise remained significant even after adjusting for body mass index, smoking, socioeconomic status, and physical activity at work.

"It's a fairly strong and very interesting association," said Jack M. Guralnik of the National Institute on Aging, in an editorial accompanying the research. "But we have to interpret this with caution. People who choose to exercise are different in many ways from people who don't exercise. It's always difficult from these observational studies to determine whether it's the exercise that's having the effects."

Winter 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 1 Page 28