Bacteria Home > Diagnosing MRSA

In order for MRSA to be diagnosed, a healthcare provider will typically begin by asking about the person's medical history. This information includes current symptoms and medications, history of medical problems, and family history of recent illnesses. The healthcare provider will also perform a physical exam to look for signs of MRSA. For more serious MRSA infections, other tests (such as blood tests, a CT scan, or x-rays) may be necessary.

How Is MRSA Diagnosed?

In order to make a diagnosis of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the healthcare provider will begin by asking a series of questions (known as a medical history). This will include questions regarding the person's:
  • Current symptoms
  • History of medical problems
  • Current medications, including antibiotics
  • Family history of recent illnesses.
(Click Who Is at Risk for Getting MRSA? to learn more about the risk factors for MRSA.)
The healthcare provider will also perform a physical exam to look for signs of MRSA. If the healthcare provider suspects MRSA or another type of bacterial infection, he or she may recommend certain tests to make a diagnosis.

Tests to Diagnose MRSA

To diagnose MRSA, a sample is obtained from the infection site and sent to a laboratory for testing. It takes about 48 to 72 hours for the results. If S. aureus (staph) is found, the organism will be further tested to determine which antibiotic is the most effective treatment.
However, newer tests are becoming more widely available that can detect staph DNA in a matter of hours. This will help healthcare providers decide on the proper treatment for a person more quickly.
Healthcare providers may also test nasal secretions for signs of MRSA, as some people may carry this type of bacteria but do not have any symptoms (see MRSA Transmission to learn about colonization).
For diagnosing more serious infections inside the body, healthcare providers may recommend x-rays, a CT scan, and/or blood tests.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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