MRSA is a methicillin-resistant (meaning resistant to certain antibiotic medications) strain of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococccus aureus bacteria normally live on the skin and in the nasal passages of healthy individuals. The bacteria can cause an infection when it enters the body through a cut or, it can enter through the catheter or breathing tube of a hospitalized person. Because this particular strain of bacteria does not respond to antibiotics normally prescribed to treat staph infections, the infection can lead to serious complications especially if left untreated.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome is a potentially fatal condition that is caused by the toxins released by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Although most commonly associated with tampons use in women, it can affect any person who has an MRSA infection. The onset of toxic shock syndrome symptoms is usually sudden, according to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic.
The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include a sudden high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, headache and a rash that appears similar to sunburn. These symptoms can quickly progress to confusion, low blood pressure and seizures. The combination of low blood pressure and the toxins produced by the MRSA can cause kidney failure.
Septic shock is a condition that can occur in response to the body's inflammatory response to the toxins released by the MRSA. This inflammatory response can damang organs, including the brain, heart, kidney, liver and intestines. Symptoms of septic shock include a high or low body temperature, chills, lightheadedness and low blood pressure. In addition the patient's hands and feet may appear pale and feel cool due to the body redirecting the blood flow away from the extremities and to the internal organs to try to prevent damage. Septic shock can result in cardiac failure, respiratory failure or death.
Bacteremia, also known as blood poisoning, is similar to septic shock except that, according to Dr. Chamberlain at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic medicine, septic shock can occur without bacteremia. Bacteremia is the presence of living bacteria in the liquid portion of the blood. If it results in sepsis (the illness that occurs when the level of bacteria in the bloodstream is high), it can cause chills, fever, lightheadedness, rash, shaking, rapid heartbeat, decreased urine volume and delirium. The National Institute of Health reports that sepsis is fatal in up to 60 percent of patients with underlying medical conditions.
Serious Metastatic Infections
MRSA can also lead to serious infections involving other organs of the body. Endocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle, heart valves or lining of the heart. Endocarditis may cause sweating, chills, aches, fever, fatigue and swelling of the legs or feet.
Osteomyelitis, infection of bone matter, causes symptoms of sudden fever, irritability and pain, swelling or redness in the area of the bone affects. MRSA infections left untreated can also result in pneumonia, lung infection or arthritis.