Rugby players risk skin infections by sharing personal items

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Public Health England experts have warned that rugby players who share razors, ice baths and towels risk passing on serious skin infections.

An investigation done at a Midlands rugby club found that the PVL-MSSA bug had spread between the players and resulted in carbuncles, abscesses and boils.

In serious cases, the infections could lead to life-threatening illnesses and may cause the death of tissues and skin.

Doctors have asked for players to share less and follow better hygiene.

The condition is caused by a particular bacteria type, known as methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, which produces a toxin labelled Panton-Valentine leukocidin.

Investigators from Public Health England examined a group of suspected infections at the same rugby club between August 2013 and February 2014.

They found four incidences of the infection, after screening around 60 team members. The tests revealed that the same bacteria type was responsible for the four infections which indicated that the bug was being passed between people.

Players were asked to complete questionnaires to help doctors in their identification of high-risk activities.

Around 20% stated that they shared towels on a regular basis, 10% said they shared razors and 5% shared clothing even though around one third admitted to suffering skin conditions during the last year. It was also noted that some of the players shared cold baths after their games.

Public Health England’s Dr Deepti Kumar said the investigation resulted in the identification of a range of high-risk practices among the players, which increased their chances of infection. Dr Kumar has asked for sportspeople who are involved in a sport where there is a high chance of suffering grazes and cuts to not share items with others and to practice good hygiene in a bid to reduce the risk of infection.

The team stated that there were possibly more cases which have not been identified as infections, but could be spread to other teams during the matches.

According to Public Health England data there are between 1200 and 1500 annual cases of PVL-MSSA nationally.

The British Association of Dermatology has stated that wrestlers and others involved in close-contact sport are also at risk.

Treatment for the infection includes antibiotics, surgical draining of abscesses and hospital care for more serious cases.

Image Credit: jimmyweee

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