People concerned about catching the superbug, MRSA, in the community do not need to avoid their local gym, the results of a new study suggest.
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can lead to severe infections. It is most commonly associated with hospitals, however, it can also be acquired in the community. It is known to remain viable on dry surfaces for extended periods. Some gyms have begun extensive cleaning programmes to combat this potential problem.
US researchers set out to investigate whether the surfaces of community gymnasium equipment could harbour staphylococcal colonies and to assess whether disinfection lowers the rate of bacterial transmission.
A total of 240 samples were collected from three local gyms, before and after cleaning, at three different times. Each sample was analysed for MRSA and MSSA (methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus).
Not one of the 240 samples taken was positive for MRSA or MSSA.
"Despite the increasing incidence of community-acquired MRSA/MSSA infections, the gyms that we studied did not appear to be significant sources of staphylococcal infection. Aggressive and expensive surface disinfection programmes may not be warranted in certain gymnasium settings," commented lead investigator, Dr Kathleen Ryan, of the University of Florida.
The equipment tested in each gym included two separate gym mats, benches, dumbbells, cardio machines and weight machines.
The first swabbing was completed at midday to serve as a baseline. A second sample was obtained in two gyms that offered cleaning wipes to patrons shortly after equipment was cleaned with these wipes. A third sample was obtained shortly after equipment was cleaned according to the gym's standard cleaning practices.
"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," the researchers said.
However the team acknowledged that broad conclusions should not be drawn from a study of this size and suggested that future studies could swab recently used clothing of gym patrons, doorknobs, water fountains or other areas within the locker room that might be more susceptible to colonisation by MRSA and MSSA.
Details of these findings are published in the American Journal of Infection Control.