College athletes in contact sports more likely to carry MRSA: study

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Philadelphia – College athletes who play contact sports are more than twice as likely to carry methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (also known as MRSA) bacteria as other athletes, a recent study suggests.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University tracked 377 male and female college athletes in 14 sports, including 224 who played contact sports such as football, soccer and basketball; and 153 who played non-contact sports such as baseball and golf. Each athlete provided monthly nasal and throat swabs during two academic years.

Contact-sport athletes who carried MRSA on their bodies – mostly in their noses and throats – ranged from 8 percent to 31 percent compared with 0 percent to 23 percent of non-contact-sport athletes. Among the general population, 5 percent to 10 percent carry MRSA, which can cause fatal infections, according to a press release.

Researchers also found contact-sport athletes picked up MRSA more quickly and carried it longer. These athletes are at greater risk of carrying MRSA because their skin touches others and they sometimes have cuts where bacteria can enter, the press release states.

Researchers recommend that athletes wash their hands, shower after exercising, and refrain from sharing towels and other personal items.

The study was presented Oct. 9 at “ID Week,” a meeting of health professionals.