Community Gyms Not a Significant Source of MRSA, Finds Study

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Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can remain viable on surfaces for extended periods and especially likes warm, damp places. Gyms across the country have initiated aggressive surface disinfection programs for their equipment due to concern about spreading infection. A new study finds that gyms may not be a significant source for staph bacterial transmission as once suspected.

Gym Equipment Found Negative for MRSA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA is a particular strain of bacteria that is highly resistant to some antibiotics. The bacteria can cause infection when it enters the body through a cut or sore. Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) describes an infection that occurs in otherwise healthy people who have not recently been in the hospital.

MRSA infections contribute to about 19,000 deaths annually and the cost to treat the infection in hospitalized patients is estimated to be between $3.2 and $4.2 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read: Hospitals Could Save Money and Lives with MRSA Screen

Researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine took a total of 240 samples from three local gyms – a high school gym, a large university rec facility, and a high-volume private gym in the Gainesville area. Samples were taken both before and after cleaning at three different times of the day. Equipment tested in each gym included two separate gym mats, benches, dumbbells, cardio machines, and weight machines.

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Each sample was analyzed for both MRSA and Methicillin-sensitive Staph (MSSA). In all samples, none were positive for either bacteria.

“Despite the increasing incidence of community-acquired MRSA/MSSA infections, the gyms that we studied do not appear to be significant sources of staphylococcal infection,” commented lead investigator Kathleen Ryan MD, of the Department of Pediatrics. “This study supports the evidence that transmission [of MRSA] is more likely to originate from skin-to-skin contact than skin-to-surface contact in the community.”

Dr. Ryan does acknowledge that the study focused only on gym equipment and did not assess the presence of bacteria on other common gym objects such as towels, locker-room benches, sinks and showers.

Read: Pomegranate Could Fight MRSA and Other Superbugs

Maryn McKenna, author of “Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA” suggests that consumers can protect themselves by being diligent about washing hands and to avoid sharing towels or other personal items.

For the treatment of MRSA infection, new recommendations were created by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and were released on January 5, 2011. The clinical guidelines clarify the appropriate use of antibiotics and treatments to prevent invasive bacteremia endocarditis, bone and joint infections, and pneumonia – the most serious complications of MRSA infection.

Source Reference:
“Are gymnasium equipment surfaces a source of staphylococcal infections in the community?" by Kathleen A. Ryan, MD, Cristos Ifantides, BA, Christopher Bucciarelli, BS, Heidi Saliba, BA, Sanjeev Tuli, MD, Erik Black, PhD, and Lindsay A. Thompson, MD, MS appears in the American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 39, Issue 2 (March 2011).

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