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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Memphis Study Found Abundance of Multiple-Drug-Resistant Bugs on Common Gym Surfaces

The emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria is a serious public health concern. The therapeutic choices to control bacterial infections may prove to be futile in eliminating drug- resistant microbes leaving almost no option available to clinicians. Resistant bacteria are common in our immediate surroundings. For example, inanimate environmental surfaces may serve as reservoirs of potential human transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA), one of the most serious drug-resistant pathogens of concern according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


[Photo: Dr. Pratik Banerjee]

Common exercise equipment of public fitness centers can be potential sources of transmission of multi-drug resistance (MDR) MRSA, according to a study from the University of Memphis School of Public Health. The researchers collected several surface swabs from public fitness centers in Memphis metropolitan area to figure out what kind of bugs the gym users may get exposed to. The swab samples were collected from the skin-contact surfaces on exercise equipment (treadmill, elliptical machine, nautilus machine, leg press, stationary bike, and powerstrider), dumbbell, handrail on stairs, and toilet handle.

The study published online September 19 in American Journal of Infection Control (official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) found a high prevalence of MDR-MRSA of clonal complex 59 (CC59) lineage.

“This is not a common MRSA type found in the US. They were reported previously from Australia or Asia-Pacific, but not from the US” said senior author Dr. Pratik Banerjee, assistant professor of environmental health. “Not only that, MRSA strains recovered and examined in this study showed resistance to multiple antibiotics, including linezolid and clindamycin, which are often prescribed as the antibiotic of choice for MRSA infection.”

“The high prevalence of MDR-MRSA in a relatively small catchment area (Memphis metropolitan) Is somewhat alarming but not surprising as reports of MRSA from indoor inanimate surfaces are not rare,” according to Ms. Nabanita Mukherjee, an epidemiology doctoral student and the first author of the paper.

“The bugs on inanimate surfaces may be transferred from humans, as the fitness center equipment and surfaces come into frequent contact with direct human skin,” said Dr. Banerjee.

“The presence of MDR bacteria in gyms obviously poses a significant health threat to any vulnerable individual. However, good personal hygienic practices, such as frequent hand washing, cleaning the surfaces with sanitizers before and after using equipment may significantly reduce the risk of infection.”

The group next plans to investigate the molecular epidemiology of human colonization and infections of MRSA strains of similar genetic background isolated from health care associated infections. The team believes this will also help them to delineate the possible role of environment in the attribution of human MRSA infection.