Pong flu: Clemson students find bacteria risk in beer pong

No beer pong? What is college life without beer pong?

In 2008, some publication at the University of California at Los Angeles – UCLA – warned students that beer pong, a communal drinking game, could be a source of infectious disease like herpes.

In 2009, students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., were asked to refrain salm.beer.pong.beerfestfrom playing beer pong after an outbreak of illness that officials feared might be swine flu.

Now, a group of Clemson University students report that pingpong balls used in beer pong games across campus are loaded with bacteria. More research found that dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, E. coli and staph on the balls end up in the beer when players make successful tosses into glasses.

The research is part of Clemson’s Creative Inquiry program, in which students pose common-sense scientific questions, then plan research to find the answers. Previous classes have debunked the five-second rule that food is safe to eat as long as it is quickly picked up after falling on the floor and shown that double-dipping chips can pose a health hazard.

The research didn’t surprise Billy Gains, the owner of BPONG, a group that organizes annual national beer pong tournaments.

After tournaments in Las Vegas, Gains said, some participants have complained about coming down with “pong flu.”

“Maybe there is something there,” Gains said. “But I think it is nothing to do with being sick. I think they are partying all night and get worn down.”