A new study has found that the college athletes who play contact sports like football and soccer are at higher risk of getting infected or spreading the infection among teammates from the bug called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or ‘staph’(MRSA).
According to the two-year study, the college atheletes playing contact sports were more than twice as likely as non-contact athletes to carry MRSA infection.
Previously, the researchers and scientists have believed tha MRSA bug was largely found among those living in health care environments and having weak immune systems.
But the new study has exposed that the MRSA superbug can also infect healthy people with good immune system and have not been hospitalized. Researchers say among all, contact sport athletes were found to be the most vulnerable group to carry superbug.
“The new study has showed that even outside of a full scale outbreak, when athletes are healthy and there are no infections, there are still a substantial number of them who are colonized with these potentially harmful bacteria,” Natalia Jimenez-Truque, PhD, MSCI, researcher at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a media release by the Infectious Disease Society of America.
According to the research group, the superbug may be harmless till it’s outside the human body, but once it enters the body it can lead to a range of infections related to skin and soft tissue. MRSA superbug is commonly carried in the throat, nose or skin of the infected people.
Scientists say most of the MRSA infections are easily treatable with antibiotics and can also be prevented by maintaining a good hygiene.
“Sports teams can decrease the spread of MRSA by encouraging good hygiene in their athletes, including frequent hand washing and avoiding sharing towels and personal items such as soap and razors,” Jimenez-Truque said.
But scientists warns against the overuse of antibiotics like amoxicillin, methicillin, oxacillin and several others as the bacterium is resistant to many antibiotics.
For the study, the researchers involved 377 atheletes (both male and female) from Vanderbilt University to examine the time duration taken to be colonized with staph, including MRSA, and how long the participants carried it. All the athletes played 14 different forms of sports.
Out of the total participants, 224 played contact sports like soccer, lacrosse, football and basketball, while the remaining 153 players played non-contact sports such as golf, cross country, and baseball.
Each player received a monthly nasal and throat swab.
The researchers found that 8 to 31 percent of athletes playing contact sports harbored the MRSA strain at any given time during the study period. In contrast, the athletes with non-contact sports were found to be carrying the bug 0-23 percent of the time.
They also found that the participants who played contact athletes acquired MRSA more instantly and colonized for longer period in comparison to non-contact athletes.