"This is something that the public needs to be more aware of, and the medical community needs to take a more proactive approach," she said.
To determine if an infection is indeed MRSA, a skin culture must be taken. While this shows exactly which type of bacteria has infected the skin and which antibiotics can still kill it, it can take several days before laboratory results are conclusive.
"Many docs still are treating soft tissue infections using antibiotics that used to work very well," Schaffner said, noting that the new study does give a detailed description of which antibiotics do seem to still be effective in treating MRSA. "It is a matter of re-educating the profession."
In the meantime, many people in the United States, like Marcia Ferguson of Annapolis, Md., have had or will have antibiotic resistant skin infections.
"I am just now recovering from a skin infection caused by the staph bacteria. It has been a horrific ordeal," Ferguson said.
What started as red bump on the back of her leg quickly turned into widespread open sores on her legs and trunk. She went to her doctor and got some antibiotics. But her fever and her sores persisted, and she had to go to the ER.
"I was in excruciating pain. There were more red bumps, more blisters, and pus was leaking from most of them," said Ferguson, who has now mostly recovered but is still changing the dressing on her sores and taking Tylenol for the pain.
And, like so many people, she said, "I still have no idea how I caught it."