New Bacteria Associated with Tattooing

by Amy Porter on August 14, 2011

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention just issued an update on issues associated with tattooing.  No this isn’t my time to rant about the quality of the ink being used.  (I’ll save that for another time.)  This post is to let people know that there is a new bacteria associated with tattooing that MDs and NDs are not familiar with.   Note:  this was from a study from 2009 and the CDC is just now sending out the warning.

What got my eye on this type of infection is that while they don’t know what causes it, they surmised it came from diluting the ink.  Any other ideas?

Tattoo-associated Mycobacterium haemophilum Skin Infection in Immunompetent Adult, 2009, Meagan K. Kay et al.
Cosmetic surgery, body piercing, and tattooing can lead to infection, particularly in people with weakened immune systems. Although tattooing is not a sterile procedure, measures should be taken to minimize risk of infection including properly training tattoo artists and using sterile equipment. Two newly reported infections after tattooing stand out because they occurred in people with healthy immune systems and were caused by Mycobacterium haemophilum, a type of bacteria, not previously found in tattoo infections. The infection might have come from the tap water used to dilute the ink.  Because these bacteria are not usual suspects in tattoo infections and because testing for them is difficult and takes a long time, labs don’t routinely run these tests.  From now on, however, doctors should consider Mycobacterium haemophilum as a possible cause of tattoo infection and should ask labs to test for them.

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