‘The Doctors’ Errs on Staph Infection Claim

A short segment on an episode of the TV program “The Doctors” which aired Wednesday, March 12 attempted to suggest that a 23-year-old woman contracted a MRSA bacterial staph infection from visiting a tanning salon in California.

The woman – identified only as Brittany in the segment – did not identify any tanning salon, but claimed, “One day, after I went tanning, when I got home, I noticed I had a small little pimple on my stomach. I was thinking that it was just going to go away, but it didn’t.” Two weeks later the bump had grown and a friend who worked at another tanning salon allegedly told her she should go to the emergency room.

According to the segment, Britney’s doctor did not tell her that MRSA can be transmitted on just about any surface. “The doctor asked me if I had been in a gym or a tanning salon or anywhere that could have that type of infection in there,” Brittany said.

From there, the segment turned into an attack on tanning – despite never even discussing how the tanning unit was isolated as the source.

According to the University of Chicago MRSA Research Center and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States, with one-quarter to one-third of the population carrying dormant staph bacteria. MRSA is a type of staph resistant to most antibiotics, with about 1 percent of the population carrying the bacteria.

According to Medicine.Net, “There are two major ways people become infected with MRSA. The first is physical contact with someone who is either infected or is a carrier (people who are not infected but are colonized with the bacteria on their body) of MRSA. The second way is for people to physically contact MRSA on any objects such as door handles, floors, sinks, or towels that have been touched by a MRSA-infected person or carrier. Normal skin tissue in people usually does not allow MRSA infection to develop; however, if there are cuts, abrasions, or other skin flaws such as psoriasis (a chronic inflammatory skin disease with dry patches, redness, and scaly skin), MRSA may proliferate. Many otherwise healthy individuals, especially children and young adults, do not notice small skin imperfections or scrapes and may be lax in taking precautions about skin contacts.

MRSA can be spread by contact with doorknobs and even doctors’ stethoscopes – a study published this month in Mayo Clinics Proceedings found that stethoscopes are common carriers of MRSA and are dirtier than doctors’ hands.

If asked by clients, please let them know there is no evidence that bacterial infection can be spread on the surface of a tanning unit that has been sanitized with products designed to clean tanning beds between uses. Any media inquiries should be directed to media@americansuntanning.org.