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A Survey of Microbial Populations in Infilled Synthetic Turf Fields

Andrew S. McNitt, PH.D. SOIL SCIENCE
Dianne Petrunak, M.S. PLANT PATHOLOGY
and Thomas Serensits, M.S. CANDIDATE IN AGRONOMY

INTRODUCTION

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is a common inhabitant of human skin and can cause various types of skin or soft tissue infections (Marples, et al, 1990). S. aureus has also been implicated in certain types of food poisoning (Bennet and Lancette, 1998) and in serious medical problems such as toxic shock syndrome. Strains of S. aureus that are resistant to common antibiotics are becoming more common, particularly in medical settings. There have been reports recently of methicillin-resistant S. aureus causing infection in athletes (Begier, et al, 2004). With the increase in athlete infections, there is growing concern regarding the role of infilled turf systems (Seppa, 2005). While there is some indication that the source of these bacteria may be more closely associated with locker room activity than with the infill system (Begier, et al, 2004; Kazakova, et al, 2005), conclusive evidence is not currently available.

The objective of this survey was to determine the microbial population of several infilled synthetic turf systems as well as natural turfgrass fields. In addition, other surfaces from public areas and from an athletic training facility were also sampled. Colonies suspected to be S. aureus were positively or negatively identified.