FRIDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of being infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria when using community gyms may not be as high as believed, a new study suggests.

Growing concerns about the spread of infection have prompted many gyms to begin extensive cleaning programs, but this finding suggests such efforts may not be necessary in all gym settings.

Researchers from the University of Florida College of Medicine collected 240 samples from exercise equipment in three local gyms before and after cleaning, at three different times. The samples were collected from gym mats, benches, dumbbells, cardio machines and weight-training machines.

Each sample was analyzed for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA). None of the samples were positive for MRSA or MSSA.

The study appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

"Despite the increasing incidence of community-acquired MRSA/MSSA infections, the gyms that we studied do not appear to be significant sources of staphylococcal infection," lead investigator Dr. Kathleen Ryan said in a journal news release. "Aggressive and expensive surface disinfection programs may not be warranted in certain gymnasium settings."

It's known that MRSA can remain viable on dry surfaces for long periods of time. However, Ryan and her colleagues said their findings support evidence that MRSA transmission is more likely to occur through skin-to-skin contact rather than skin-to-surface contact in the community.

The researchers noted that this was a small study and future studies might collect samples from gym users' clothing, door knobs, water fountains, and other areas of the locker room that might be more likely to be colonized by MRSA and MSSA.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about MRSA.