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Original Article

Cutaneous Community-acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection in Participants of Athletic Activities

Philip R. Cohen, MD
Volume: 98 Issue: 6 June, 2005

Abstract:

Objectives: Cutaneous community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(CAMRSA) has been identified in otherwise healthy individuals either with or without methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA)-associated risk factors who participate in athletic activities. The purpose of this study was to describe the clinical features of CAMRSA skin infection that occurred in university student athletes, evaluate the potential mechanisms for the transmission of MRSA infection of the skin in participants of athletic activities, and review the measures for preventing the spread of cutaneous CAMRSA infection in athletes.


Methods: A retrospective chart review of the student athletes from the University of Houston whose skin lesions were evaluated at the Health Center and grew MRSA was performed. The clinical characteristics and the postulated mechanisms of cutaneous MRSA infection in the athletes were compared with those previously published in reports of CAMRSA skin infection outbreaks in other sports participants.


Results: Cutaneous CAMRSA infection occurred in seven student athletes (four women and three men) who were either weight lifters (three students) or members of a varsity sports team: volleyball (two women), basketball (one woman), and football (one man). The MRSA skin infection presented as solitary or multiple, tender, erythematous, fluctuant abscesses with surrounding cellulitis. The lesions were most frequently located in the axillary region (three weight lifters), on the buttocks (two women), or on the thighs (two women). The drainage from all of the skin lesions grew MRSA, which was susceptible to clindamycin, gentamicin, rifampin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, and vancomycin; five of the isolates were also susceptible to ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin. All of the bacterial strains were resistant to erythromycin, oxacillin, and penicillin. The cutaneous MRSA infections persisted or worsened in the six athletes who were empirically treated for methicillin-sensitive S. aureus at their initial visit. Complete resolution of the skin infection occurred after the abscesses had been drained and the athlete had been treated with systemic antimicrobial therapy for which the bacterial strain was susceptible.


Conclusions: Cutaneous CAMRSA infection typically presents as an abscess, with or without surrounding cellulitis, in otherwise healthy participants of athletic activities who have or do not have MRSA-associated risk factors. Athletes who have MRSA skin infections include weight lifters and team members from competitive sports such as basketball, fencing, football, rugby, volleyball, and wrestling. Bacterial culture of suspected infectious skin lesions should be performed to establish the diagnosis of cutaneous MRSA infection and to determine the antibiotic susceptibility of the bacterial isolate. Treatment of cutaneous MRSA infection involves drainage of the abscess (either spontaneously or after incision) and appropriate systemic antimicrobial therapy. Direct skin-to-skin physical contact with infectious lesions or drainage, skin damage that facilitates the entry of bacteria, and sharing of infected equipment, clothing, or personal items may result in the acquisition and transmission of MRSA infection in participants of athletic activities. Earlier detection and topical treatment of the athlete's skin wounds by their coaches, avoidance of contact with other participants' cutaneous lesions and their drainage, and good personal hygiene are measures that can potentially prevent the spread of cutaneous MRSA infection in participants of athletic activities.

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