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Therapeutic Ball Pits Found to Harbor Pathogenic Germs

FRIDAY, March 29, 2019 -- Therapeutic ball pits in physical therapy clinics may pose an infection hazard, according to a study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Mary Ellen Oesterle, Ed.D., P.T., from the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, and colleagues collected samples by swabbing the entire surface of nine to 15 randomly selected balls in six ball pits located in inpatient physical therapy clinics or outpatient clinics in the state of Georgia. The authors measured the number of colony-forming units (CFUs).

The researchers found considerable variability among samples in the number of recoverable CFUs between clinics and locations. Of the six clinics, CFUs ranged from a median of 95.5 to 30,000 CFUs per ball. Thirty-one bacterial species and one species of yeast were identified, including nine opportunistic pathogens.

"The considerable variation in the recoverable CFUs suggests that clinics utilize different protocols for cleaning and maintenance of their ball pits," the authors write. "Bacterial colonization was found to be as high as thousands of cells per ball, which clearly demonstrates an increased potential for transmission of these organisms to patients and the possibility of infection in these exposed individuals."

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Posted: March 2019

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