What Drugs Are Used to Treat MRSA?

You may have seen the 2007 headlines that claimed that Methicillan Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus killed more people than AIDS. While it is true that there are some strains of staphylococcus bacteria that have become resistant to drugs, most people live with staph every day. The National Institute of Health states that MRSA can be found on most humans, both on their skin and in their nose. Some strains of staph have become resistant to Methicillan, but many other drugs effectively treat this illness.

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Vancomycin is the drug of choice for the treatment of MRSA. This drug must be given intravenously or via injection. This can mean a lengthy hospital stay dependent upon the degree of infection. Vancomycin also has side effects that are severe and occasionally permanent. Vancomycin can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, according to the Mayo Clinic 2. It can also prove toxic to the kidneys. Before taking this medication, inform your doctor of any history of hearing loss or kidney disease.


Zyvox is used to treat MRSA and Vancomycin resistant staphylococcus aureus. Zyvox can be given orally but should not be taken by people who take an MAO Inhibitor such as Marplan, Nardil or Parnate. Zyvox must also be avoided if you have high blood pressure, pheochromocytoma (an adrenal gland tumor), or a severe thyroid disorder. A life-threatening disorder known as lactic acidosis may occur if you have liver or kidney disease or if you drink excessively.


Bactrim belongs to a class of drugs known as sulfonamides and is used in combination with Rifampin for the treatment of MRSA. Sulfonamides are known for a rare but serious side effect known as Stephen Johnson Syndrome in which severe eruptions around the mouth, anus and eyes can occur. This disorder causes a progressive degeneration of the skin, sudden and severe liver damage and a severe blood disorder known as agranulocytosis.


Rifampin is often used in combination with Vancomycin or Bactrim. The North Dakota Department of Health reports that Rifampin is not to be used alone for the treatment of MRSA as the bacteria rapidly becomes resistant to the drug 4. Rifampin can have serious side effects, such as increased blood pressure, increased uric acid levels, increased incidence of hepatitis and asymptomatic increase in liver enzymes. Rifampin may also turn body fluids red or orange including tears, sweat and urine. Carefully discuss all current medications prior to treatment. Never start any medications, including over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements without discussing with your physician first.


According to the National Institute of Health’s website, tetracycline is not the first choice for the treatment of MRSA but it has been shown to be effective in most studies 3. If prescribed tetracycline, patients should avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight as this drug causes photosensitivity 3. Other side effects include upset stomach, diarrhea, skin discoloration and itching of the rectum and vagina.