Hepatitis B contracted through sweat
How much of a concern should this be for people involved in contact sports? Should compulsory blood tests or even medical background checks be introduced at martial arts clubs?
I realise it's not all that likely but is still a concern nevertheless.
RUGBY players could be at risk of contracting hepatitis B through sweat, researchers said yesterday.
A study has found that the infection, which can lead to liver damage, cancer and even death, may be passed on in sweat as well as blood.Experts writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said those playing contact sports, such as rugby or wrestling, faced an increased risk of infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
They called for increased testing of sportsmen and sportswomen involved in contact sports.
HBV is mostly passed in blood-to-blood contact, but also by other bodily fluids. Those at risk include people having unprotected sex or injecting drugs.
Around one in 1,000 people in the UK is believed to have hepatitis B.
The study, by researchers at Celal Bayer University in Turkey, analysed blood and sweat samples from 70 Olympic wrestlers, who were also asked about injuries they had suffered.
None of the wrestlers had an active HBV infection, but the virus was found in nine blood samples (13 per cent).
Researcher Dr Selda Bereket-Yucel said this showed they had a hidden infection because intense training could suppress a normal immune response.
The researchers also found that eight wrestlers (11 per cent) had particles of the virus in their sweat.
Dr Bereket-Yucel said that mandatory testing of sportsmen should be introduced for HBV.
"In addition to bleeding wounds and mucous membranes, sweating may be another way of transmitting HBV infections in contact sports," she said.
But Dr Mark Thursz, from St Mary's Hospital in London, said that HBV particles, but not viable HBV, had been found in sweat before.
"It is hard to imagine wrestling without spillage of blood, so the risk of transmission via sweat should be dismissed or at least played down," he said.
"On the other hand, testing and vaccination in contact sports should be encouraged."
Dr James Robson, head of medical services at the Scottish Rugby Union, said the union always considered research which could affect players.
"It is starting to emerge that hepatitis B is slightly more infectious than previously thought," he said.
"But the biggest risk in our sport remains blood-borne viruses transmitted through open wounds.
"That is why we already have precautions in place to deal with that.
"Officials have the power to remove bleeding players from the pitch and order them to remove blood-drenched clothing.
"We also advise players to be immunised against hepatitis B and hepatitis A, as well as tetanus."