Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a virulent "superbug" bacteria strain that can cause life-threatening infections. Often, MRSA will live somewhat harmlessly in the nasal passages of people who have had previous infections or who work in hospital environments. Less commonly, MRSA will cause active infections in the skin of the nose.
MRSA bacteria often live in nasal passages for years without ever showing any symptoms. In fact, the vast majority of hospital workers are colonized with MRSA in the nose, meaning that the bacteria have an established colony, but are not spreading or causing active infection. People who have had MRSA infections in the past are also very likely to be colonized. A person who is colonized with MRSA in the nose may be able to transmit the infection to other people or develop an infection if the immune system becomes weakened. However, MRSA colonization is extremely common, and is not considered to be a serious condition. Since it does not create pain, congestion, or other symptoms, MRSA colonization is not treated with antibiotics or other clinical medicines.
While MRSA colonization in the nose does not require treatment, carriers can benefit themselves and their communities by keeping the subclinical infection at bay. A strong immune system may, over time, help to eliminate MRSA from the nasal passages. Exercise and a healthy diet are the cornerstones of maintaining good health, but natural treatments may also help. People who know or suspect that they are carrying subclinical MRSA should be particularly cautious when they are in the presence of people who are very young, very old, or immunocompromised. Commonsense precautions, like frequent hand-washing, can save lives by preventing the spread of diseases like MRSA.
Rarely, MRSA may cause an infection that affects the sinuses. While sinusitis itself is usually considered to be minor, it can be dangerous if it is known to be caused by MRSA. A MRSA nose infection that affects the sinuses can spread to the ears, lungs, throat and even brain, especially in people with weak immune systems. Sinus infections caused by MRSA are usually only diagnosed after a bacterial infection fails to respond to typical antibiotics like penicillin. Unless the infection seems to be clearing well without intervention, doctors will usually prescribe oral vancomycin, a powerful antibiotic, to treat the infection.
MRSA can cause skin infections on almost any part of the body, including the sensitive tissues inside the nose. A painful, pus-filled sore or boil inside the nose may be caused by MRSA (or another form of staph infection). This may occur without any known cause, or after a nose piercing or injury that leaves nose tissue prone to infection. If the skin infection is mild and superficial, like a large pimple, some doctors may choose not to treat it with medication. If the sore is easy for the doctor to reach, he may lance and drain it to eliminate the infection. More persistent abscesses may require treatment with vancomycin, especially if they spread or become very painful.
Since MRSA infections can become life-threatening under some circumstances, this virulent superbug should never be treated at home without the guidance of a physician. However, complementary and alternative therapies can help to eliminate both active infections and colonization in the nose. Immune-boosting supplements, like oil of oregano and garlic, can help to enhance resistance to MRSA with few side effects. Tea tree oil, applied topically to a skin infection in the nose, can help to fight bacteria. Other alternative remedies, such as colloidal silver, may also be beneficial.