Hand Sanitizers vs. MRSA in Grappling: Fighting clean

by Caleb on October 11, 2006

Okay I gotta say it: I disagree with Gumby’s recent blog post where he recommends using Febreeze AntiMicrobial as a way to keep one’s gi clean. I suppose in the absence of being able to wash one’s gi after rolling it’s advisable, but one should really, really wash the gi after every time you train. I know, some guys don’t, but they should.

The fact is that MRSA is an issue for all of us on the mat. If you’re not aware of MRSA, you may’ve heard of it referred to simply as “staph”. It’s appeared on a couple seasons of The Ultimate Fighter on SpikeTV (sometimes publicly, sometimes less so) and is an especially nasty type of staph infection that is transmitted through the skin and spreads in environments where there’s a lot of close human contact, like that among wrestlers, grapplers, and other team sports environments. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as ringworm, as MRSA can kill if not treated. It’s resistant to the normal first line antibiotics prescribed by physicians, and as such is more insidious because while patients and doctors believe the normal antibiotic is working, the infection continues to spread.

I’ve kept a squeeze pump of the drug store generic brand Purell in my car for a while, and apply it to my face and hands after training (Tip: it’s alcohol based, so do not get it in your eyes). Recently I was wondering if it’s of any value in preventing MRSA. I mean if MRSA is resistant to antibiotics, as they say, is it resistant to hand sanitizing gels too? Gumby’s post got me motivated to contact Jeff Hageman from the Centers For Disease Control in Atlanta, whom we had here on The FightWorks Podcast back in Episode 7 to help get the word out about MRSA, so I could find out whether the Purell was doing me any good. Jeff was very helpful and I’ve posted some excerpts from his response:

Performing routine hand hygiene (eg., before and after participating), either hand washing with soap and water or using a waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer, is one of the best ways to prevent transmission of pathogens including MRSA and staph. In situations where sinks are not available for hand washing, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a good alternative… A general tip is to apply enough product, while rubbing over all surfaces of the hands, so that it takes ~30 seconds for your hands to dry.

So, now we know that Purell and similar hand sanitizing products do help in preventing the spread of MRSA. Good news!

Above all though, I’ll leave you with Jeff’s closing words in his email:

In addition to hand hygiene, general hygiene measures should also be encouraged such as showering immediately after participating, avoid sharing personal items like towels, washing uniforms after each use, and inspecting your skin for any abrasions or potential infections that might need care.

If you’ve got a MRSA aka “staph” story to share, feel free to share in the comments below!

Update 10.20.06 – Gumby’s posted a poll over on the OTM forums about gi washing frequency. Go vote! I’d like to see what folks are doing! (And who needs scolding!)

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Clarke May 5, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Caleb,

I wrote an article about MRSA on my site a little while ago. In part, it was inspired by one of your Podcasts (I forget which one, though). The article is here: http://smashpass.blogspot.com/2007/03/mrsa-report.html . I hope you take a look at it and find some good info in it.

Keep up the good work.

Jason

Eric December 13, 2007 at 9:42 am

I’ve bumped into the problem of alcohol based sanitation drying out the skin, causing cracks that allow the mrsa to hide and grow in. I’m trying to find out if “PURE Body Wash” contains chemicals that are registared with the FDA or EPA to kill MRSA. Has anyone found that info yet? As far as I can tell, the silver di citrate sprays seem to be the way to go for dealing with the cleaning of equipment..

Jack March 14, 2008 at 9:36 am

alcohol-based sanitizers are effective at killing staph WHILE THEY ARE STILLA LIQUID! Once they evaporate (about 5-10 seconds) they offer no protection. You need something with an active residual that continues working for hours.

Chance February 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Alcohol is different than antibiotics. They’re nowhere close to being the same. Alcohol blows a hole through (ruptures) the cell wall of MRSA. This kills bacteria good and bad almost instantly.

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