Health spa practice is highly unhealthy, study reports. By Alan Mozes HealthDay Reporter THURSDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- "Fish pedicures" in healthspas can expose recipients to a host of pathogens and bacterialinfections, a team of researchers warns. The practice of exposing your feet to live freshwater fish that eataway dead or damaged skin for mainly cosmetic reasons has beenbanned in many (but not all) American states, but it is apparentlya hot trend in Britain. So much so that the British researchers sent their warning in aletter published in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases , a publication from the U.S. |
Centers for Disease Control andPrevention. Officially known as "ichthyotherapy," the procedure typicallyinvolves the importation of what are called "doctor fish," aEurasian river basin species known as "Garra rufa." The fish areplaced in a spa tub, the foot (or even whole body) joins it, andthe nautical feeding on dead or unwanted skin begins. The problem: such fish may play host to a wide array of organismsand disease, some of which can provoke invasive soft-tissueinfection in exposed humans and many of which areantibiotic-resistant, according to the scientists from the Centerfor Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) inWeymouth. In the letter, CEFAS team leader David W.
Verner-Jeffreysreferenced a 2011 survey that suggested the U.K. is now home to279-plus "fish spas," with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 fishcoming into the country every week from a host of Asian countries. Verner-Jeffreys noted that in April 2011, 6,000 fish imported fromIndonesia for U.K. fish spas were affected by a disease outbreakthat caused hemorrhaging of their gills, mouth and abdomen,resulting in the death of nearly all the specimens. In turn, U.K.
scientists uncovered signs of bacterial infection(caused by a pathogen called "S agalactiae") in the fishes' livers,kidneys and spleen. Following this discovery, Verner-Jeffreys said, his team conductedfive raids on imported fish batches coming through HeathrowAirport, which uncovered further signs of infection with a numberof additional pathogens. Many of those were found to be resistantto such standard antimicrobial drugs as tetracycline,fluoroquinolone and aminoglycoside. "To date, there are only a limited number of reports of patientswho might have been infected by this exposure route,"Verner-Jeffreys said in his letter.
"However, our study raises someconcerns over the extent that these fish, or their transport water,might harbor potential zoonotic disease pathogens of clinicalrelevance." At particularly high risk, the scientists said, were people alreadystruggling with diabetes, liver disease and/or immune disorders. Verner-Jeffreys suggested that spas offering fish pedicures usedisease-free fish raised in controlled environments. George A. O'Toole, a professor in the department of microbiologyand immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth inHanover, N.H., added his own concern. " I would stay away from this experience," he said.
"It's probablynot feasible to sterilize these fish. And as for the water itself,even if you dump it between patients, these organisms will formrings of biofilm communities attached to the surface of the tubsthemselves. It's like a contact lens case that you never disinfect.Simply wiping them down is not good enough. Unless you'reincredibly responsible about sterilizing those tubs you're notgoing to kill them, and they will reseed the next batch of water.The whole thing is a bad idea." Dr.
Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and pathologyat New York University Medical Center in New York City, agreed. "It's a bad idea in several ways," he said. "Because thesepathogens can give you a serious wound infection. Or blood-borneinfection. Or diarrhea.
Or even pose a threat to a pregnant woman'sfetus or newborn." "Really, you have the potential for multiple types of infection,"Tierno added. "Because theoretically when you're touching the areathat has been nibbled on by these fish, you can still have theorganisms there. And then you can inadvertently touch your mouthand introduce them into your system." More information For more on foot health, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
SOURCES: George A. O'Toole, Ph.D., professor, department ofmicrobiology and immunology, Geisel School of Medicine atDartmouth, Hanover, N.H.; Philip Tierno, M.D., Ph.D., director,clinical microbiology and pathology, New York University MedicalCenter; June 2012 Emerging Infectious Diseases Copyright © 2012 HealthDay . All rights reserved.
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