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A to Z: MSSA

MSSA stands for methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus. Staph is the shortened name for Staphylococcus (staf-uh-low-KAH-kus), a type of bacteria. MSSA is a strain of staph bacteria that responds well to medicines used to treat staph infections.

More to Know

Many strains of staph bacteria are quite common, and most people have staph bacteria living harmlessly on their skin or in their noses. Staph bacteria that enter the body through a cut, scrape, or rash can cause minor skin infections. Most of these heal on their own if the wound is kept clean and bandaged, but sometimes antibiotics are needed.

Some bacteria, called MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), resist the medicines that usually treat staph infections. MSSA infections, however, usually respond well to treatment with these medicines.

MSSA infections can cause toxic shock syndrome, cellulitis, staph food poisoning, folliculitis (infection of hair follicles), boils, impetigo, and scalded skin syndrome (an illness that causes a fever, rash, and sometimes blisters).

Most MSSA infections can be treated by washing the skin with an antibacterial cleanser, using warm soaks, applying an antibiotic ointment prescribed by a doctor, and covering the skin with a clean dressing. Doctors also may prescribe oral antibiotics to treat MSSA infections. More serious infections may require hospitalization.

Keep in Mind

Most MSSA infections are easily treated with antibiotics or by draining the infection of pus or fluid. Many such infections can be prevented by washing hands well and often, keeping cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage, not sharing personal items (like razors, towels, or uniforms), and making sure to take the full amount of any antibiotics as prescribed.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.