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23 November 2004
Body Shaving Spreads Bacterial Infection
by George Atkinson

An article in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggests that turf burns and cosmetic body shaving were responsible for the spread of a bacterial skin infection among players on a college football team.

The staphylococcus aureus bacteria (also known as MRSA), is a type of drug-resistant bacteria that infects the skin, heart or central nervous system of hospital patients. In recent years, a more virulent strain has emerged that can infect healthy people. Staphylococcus outbreaks among athletes are becoming increasingly common, due to the players' frequent physical contact.

Researchers found that 10 percent of the players on a Connecticut college football team had MRSA skin infections, for which two were hospitalized. Cornerbacks and wide receivers, who frequently come into direct contact with other players, accounted for the most MRSA cases. The athletes who practiced cosmetic body shaving had a 43 percent risk of infection. Players sharing inadequately disinfected whirlpools may have also contributed to the MRSA spread.

The outbreak was stemmed, in part, by the proper disinfection of whirlpools and the installation of antibacterial soap dispensers to the athletes' showers. Dr. Elizabeth Begier, lead author of the study, said there are other ways of helping to control MRSA. "You may not notice it, but when you are shaving, you create micro-abrasions," said Dr. Begier. "It's not intuitive to the young men involved in this… even if you don't see it, there are small breaks there." The researchers recommend discontinuing the practice of body shaving to decrease the risk of infection.

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