Researchers say, people who like to go to public ocean beaches for swimming may increase their risk for potential staph infections.
This finding is based on a study that was funded by multiple agencies, and conducted by the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.
"Our study found that if you swim in subtropical marine waters, you have a significant chance-approximately 37 percent - of being exposed to staph-either yours or possibly that from someone else in the water near you," said Dr. Lisa Plano, associate professor of pediatrics and microbiology and immunology at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, who collaborated in the study, the first large epidemiologic survey of its kind.
"This exposure might lead to staph infection since people colonized with the bacteria carry it into the water with them. Those with open wounds or who are immune compromised are at greatest risk of infection," the researcher added.
However, the study has also shown that the potentially virulent variety of antibiotic resistant staph, commonly known as MRSA, makes up less than three per cent of staph from the beach waters sampled by the researchers.
The researchers do not say that people should avoid beaches, but recommend taking precautions to reduce the risk of infection by showering thoroughly before entering the water and after getting out.
They concede that more research is required to determine how long staph, including MRSA, can live in coastal waters, and the uptake and infection rate associated with the beach exposures.