How MRSA Is Diagnosed

MRSA Is a Bacteria That Causes Skin Infections

If you or someone you know has had Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), you may be wondering, is MRSA contagious?

What Is MRSA?

MRSA is a type of bacteria that can cause skin infections. Although once limited to people with weak immune systems in hospitals and nursing homes, they are increasingly being seen in healthy adults and children. MRSA infections are sometimes limited to simple pimple-like infections, but they can also become much larger abscesses and boils that need to be drained.

Unfortunately, MRSA infections can also lead to much more serious infections, including infections of the bloodstream (bacteremia and sepsis), bone infections, heart valve infection (MRSA endocarditis) and pneumonia.

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MRSA. Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images


Doctors diagnose MRSA by checking a tissue sample or nasal secretions for signs of drug-resistant bacteria. The sample is sent to a lab where it's placed in a dish of nutrients that encourage bacterial growth. But because it takes about 48 hours for the bacteria to grow, newer tests that can detect staph DNA in a matter of hours are now becoming more widely available.


Both healthcare-associated and community-associated strains of MRSA still respond to certain antibiotics. For example, doctors may drain a superficial abscess caused by MRSA and consider the addition of antibiotic coverage based on clinical assessment.

Is MRSA Contagious?

As most people are well aware, MRSA skin infections are very contagious. In addition to keeping a child's MRSA infection covered, it is important to see your pediatrician so that it can be properly treated. If the wound is draining and can't be completely covered, then the child should likely be excluded from sports, so that he doesn't infect other children.

Also, it is important to wash the child's clothing, towels and bedding in hot water.

To help prevent other kids from getting MRSA, it can help if they:

  • Wash their hands frequently.
  • Shower daily and again after exercise.
  • Cover all insect bites, sores, cuts, and abrasions.
  • Don't share personal items with other people, including towels, clothing, washcloths, and razors.
  • Clean and/or cover exercise equipment at school and at the gym before and after using them.
4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MRSA Skin Infection Signs and Symptoms.

  2. Hassoun A, Linden PK, Friedman B. Incidence, prevalence, and management of MRSA bacteremia across patient populations-a review of recent developments in MRSA management and treatment. Crit Care. 2017;21(1):211. doi:10.1186/s13054-017-1801-3

  3. National Institute for Health. Diagnosis, Methicillin - Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
 Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.