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The Sports Ball as a Fomite for Transmission of Staphylococcus aureus


Outbreaks of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are becoming increasingly frequent in the athletic community. Skin–fomite contact represents a putative mechanism for transmission of MRSA. The objective of this study was to demonstrate the prevalence and transmissibility of S. aureus in three surfaces commonly encountered in the gymnasium setting: the court floor, the sports ball, and the athlete's hands. Three sports scenarios were simulated by dribbling a sports ball within a designated area; the surfaces were cultured before and after play using media selective for S. aureus. There was significant transfer of S. aureus from the native, contaminated surface towards two disinfected surfaces. In a fourth experiment, survival of S. aureus on sports balls was evaluated over time. S. aureus was found to be viable on the ball for at least 72 hr. This study demonstrates the significance of the sports ball as a vector for pathogen transmission. Interventions aimed at reducing athletic outbreaks should therefore include routine disinfection of sports balls during and after play.


  • Brandon A. Haghverdian, MD, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Nimesh Patel, Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in California
  • Lisa Wang, RN, CCRN, Stanford University Medical Center
  • Joshua A. Cotter, PhD, California State University, Long Beach
Volume#: 80.6
Page #: 8-13
Publication Month: January/February 2018

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