In the study, women taking hormonal contraception were about twice as likely to persistently harbor staph bacteria in their nasal passages compared with women not taking hormonal contraception.
The findings suggest that the widespread use of birth control increases the “pool” of people harboring the bacteria, which in turn, may contribute to its spread to people susceptible to getting sick from an infection, said study researcher Dennis Nurjadi, of the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Tübingen.
The women in the study did not have staph infections. Many people carry the bacteria, called Staphylococcus aureus, on their skin or in their nasal passages without any problems. However, the bacteria can cause skin infections, particularly inside cuts and scratches, and infections can be lethal if they enter the bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic. People with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to staph infections.
The study only found an association, and not a direct cause-effect link between taking birth control and harboring staph. But if the findings hold up in future studies, it would mean that about 20 percent of women who carry the bacteria do so because they use hormonal contraception, the researchers said.
The study was published Sept. 5 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Nurjadi and colleagues analyzed information from 1,180 young men and women who were seeking health advice before traveling to subtropical regions and provided two nasal swabs at least a month apart.
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