Doctors are advised to culture the infection before prescribing antibiotics but most of them just assume that the staph strain causing the infection will be susceptible to routine antibiotics, says M. Lindsay Grayson, professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), infections are prevalent among hospitalized people, or those taking antibiotics for long periods. But, of late, MRSA is becoming increasingly common among people who haven't been near hospitals or other health care settings.
At least 12% of the drug-resistant staph infections were found in the community and had no link to health care settings, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, 59 % of skin and soft tissue infections among patients seen at 11 emergency rooms were caused by community-associated MRSA infections, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2006;355:666-74).
Doctors prescribed inappropriately in 57 % of the 80% of the patients were treated with antibiotics.
"This finding suggests a need to reconsider empirical antimicrobial choices for skin and soft-tissue infections in areas where MRSA is prevalent in the community," the study says. "Standard precautions (including the use of gowns and gloves by health care workers for contact with wound drainage) should be used for all patients."