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 health care-associated and community-associated strains of MRSA still respond to certain antibiotics. In some cases, antibiotics may not be necessary. For example, doctors may drain a superficial abscess caused by MRSA rather than treat the infection with drugs.

Preparing for your appointment

While you may initially consult your family physician, he or she may refer you to a specialist, depending on which of your organ systems is affected by the infection. For example, a dermatologist specializes in skin conditions, while a cardiologist treats heart disorders.

What you can do

Before your appointment, you might want to write a list that includes:

  • Detailed descriptions of your symptoms
  • Information about medical problems you've had
  • Information about the medical problems of your parents or siblings
  • All the medications and dietary supplements you take
  • Questions you want to ask the doctor

What to expect from your doctor

During your physical exam, your doctor will closely examine any skin lesions you may have. He or she might take a sample of tissue or liquid from the lesions for testing.

Oct. 18, 2018
  1. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/index.html. Accessed Aug. 13, 2015.
  2. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/mrsa-methicillin-resistant-staphylococcus-aureus. Accessed Aug. 13, 2015.
  3. Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Non-necrotizing infections of the dermis and subcutaneous fat: Cellulitis and erysipelas. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Aug. 13, 2015.
  4. Anderson DJ. Epidemiology of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 13, 2015.
  5. Lowy FD. Treatment of invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 13, 2015.
  6. Jackson KA, et al. Invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections among persons who inject drugs — Six sites, 2005–2016. MMWR. 2018;67:625.


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