Difference Between a Pimple & MRSA

MRSA--methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus--is a dangerous type of staph infection which often looks similar to a pimple. It is important to be able to recognize the differences between MRSA and a pimple, and also to know when to take extra medical precautions. While one is harmless, the other is resistant to many treatments and can cause death.

What is MRSA?

MRSA is a virulent strain of bacteria, called Staphylococcus aureus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although about 25 percent of the population carries the staph bacteria on their skin, it can cause infection 2. MRSA is a particular strain of staph which is resistant to most antibiotics.


Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell the difference between a normal pimple and a pimple or bump caused by MSRA. Syracuse University states that a staph rash, such as MRSA, often looks like a pimple or a boil on the skin. Both a pimple and staph can appear as a red, swollen bump. They can both be painful to the touch and they can both be filled with pus.


The danger in not being able to easily tell the difference between a regular pimple and a bump caused by staph is that you may be ignoring the onset of a serious MRSA infection. Staph infections, if left untreated, can make their way into the bloodstream and can cause death. People with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer or AIDS, are at high risk.

Medical Precautions

If you have a pimple that just doesn’t seem to go away or if you get a gut feeling that tells you something just isn’t right about a bump you have, don’t pick at it or try to pop it. Instead, contact your doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing your hands often and covering any bump that seems suspicious or doesn’t heal 2.


Though the MRSA strain of staph is resistant to the penicillin-type antibiotics, some antibiotics are still effective in treating it. Syracuse University states that sometimes bumps or pimples that have MRSA need to be drained, but only by a doctor. If you try to drain or pop it yourself, you may spread the bacteria.