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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Warning over new tattoo infection

16th August 2011

A new type of bacteria is infecting people who get tattoos, according to a recent US study.


The researchers followed up on skin lesions found in two people in connection with tattoos and determined that more people could become infected if people were not warned.

Both of the infections involved Mycobacterium haemophilum, which usually only infects immuno-compromised people.

Lead author Meagan Kay, an epidemiologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that the two people developed chronic skin infections after receiving tattoos at the same business.

She said that she and her colleagues believe the M haemophilium inoculations came from the tap water used to rinse and dilute inks, and that it was important for people to remember that tattooing was not a sterile procedure.

Several years ago, when two other people developed skin lesions after receiving tattoos, health authorities in the US first began to suspect that M haemophilium might pose a public health risk.

The tattoo parlour involved in the infections was later cleared of health and safety violations.

Neither of the people infected was immuno-deficient, and as a result, investigators began to worry that M haemophilium might infect others.

Investigators at the site did not find any M haemophilium in the water there, but researchers cannot see any other way the bacterium would have infected the two people, since the pathogen is usually water-borne.

Kay said that people who suspected their tattoo was infected should seek a consultation with their doctors, especially if they noticed increased redness, warmth, swelling, pain and discharge.

She said that tattoo artists should avoid using tap water during any part of the tattoo procedure.

Myrna Armstrong, professor emeritus at the school of nursing at Texas Tech University's health sciences centre in Lubbock, said that tattooing was basically unregulated in the US.

She said that she was someone who had been doing research on tattoos and body piercing for more than 20 years, and that she believed people should shop around before deciding to get a tattoo.

Kay said that tattoo artists should try to prevent infections by giving proper training, using sterile equipment, and maintaining general cleanliness.

Tattooing has been practised for centuries worldwide.

In Japan, the Ainu, one of Japan's most ancient minority groups, traditionally had facial tattoos.

Many Polynesian tribes, as well as some Native American tribes, also wore facial tattoos.



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