Public fitness centers and exercise facilities have been implicated as possible sources for transmitting community-acquired bacterial infections. However, the overall diversity of the bacterial community residing on the surfaces in these indoor environments is still unknown. In this study, we investigated the overall bacterial ecology of selected fitness centers in a metropolitan area (Memphis, TN, USA) utilizing culture-independent pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA genes. Samples were collected from the skin-contact surfaces (e.g., exercise instruments, floor mats, handrails, etc.
) within fitness centers. Taxonomical composition revealed the abundance of Firmicutes
phyla, followed by Proteobacter
, with a total of 17 bacterial families and 25 bacterial genera. Most of these bacterial genera are of human and environmental origin (including, air, dust, soil, and water). Additionally, we found the presence of some pathogenic or potential pathogenic bacterial genera including Salmonella
, and Micrococcus
was found to be the most prevalent genus. Presence of viable forms of these pathogens elevates risk of exposure of any susceptible individuals. Several factors (including personal hygiene, surface cleaning and disinfection schedules of the facilities) may be the reasons for the rich bacterial diversity found in this study. The current finding underscores the need to increase public awareness on the importance of personal hygiene and sanitation for public gym users.
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