Is MRSA an STD?

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MRSA bacteria. Computer artwork of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. Science Photo Library - SCIEPRO/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Question: Is MRSA an STD?

Answer: Not usually, but it can be.

Despite news reports about MRSA infections in gay men, and although MRSA can be sexually  transmitted and passed on through intimate contact, MRSA is not primarily thought of as an STD.

Staph bacteria can be spread by any close personal contact.  Most infections are spread by casual or medical contact, not through sex. In fact, sexual transmission of MRSA is relatively rare, even in groups that are considered high risk.

That said, many people carry staph on their skin. Therefore, it's important to practice good hygiene. Even though most staph infections are relatively minor, you really don't want to end up with one that isn't.

In contrast to MRSA, most conditions that are thought of STDs are spread primarily through sex rather than through less intimate contact. For example, common STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV require exchange of bodily fluids. Even STDs such as herpes and HPV that are spread through skin-to-skin contact are more often spread during sex.

More Information About MRSA

How Can I Reduce the Risk of Getting MRSA?

  • Keep clean.
    Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, particularly after going to the bathroom. This will help keep you from moving bacteria from one part of your skin to another.
  • Keep your germs to yourself.
    Wash with soap and water after sex and other skin-to-skin contact (including sports games, dancing, etc.), and don't share personal items like towels, razors, or tweezers.
  • Avoid infection.
    Keep your cuts, scrapes and scratches clean, dry, and covered.
  • Be sensible.
    When at the gym, clean equipment with antiseptic spray or put down a towel.

    Sources:

    Antoniou T, Devlin R, Gough K, Mulvey M, Katz KC, Zehtabchi M, Polsky J, Tilley D, Brunetta J, Arbess G, Guiang C, Chang B, Kovacs C, Ghavam-Rassoul A, Cavacuiti C, Corneslon B, Berger P, Loutfy MR. Prevalence of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonization in men who have sex with men. Int J STD AIDS. 2009 Mar;20(3):180-3. doi: 10.1258/ijsa.2008.008243.

    Diep BA, Chambers HF, Graber CJ, Szumowski JD, Miller LG, Han LL, Chen JH, Lin F, Lin J, Phan TH, Carleton HA, McDougal LK, Tenover FC, Cohen DE, Mayer KH, Sensabaugh GF, Perdreau-Remington F. Emergence of multidrug-resistant, community-associated, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus clone USA300 in men who have sex with men. Ann Intern Med. 2008 Feb 19;148(4):249-57.

    CDC Community Associated MRSA Information Page (Accessed 1/22/08).

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