I still notice some Fish Spa joints around town. Please note that the CDC has warned that Pedicure fish may harbor harmful bacteria
WASHINGTON — Back in 2008, a new pedicure trend swept the nation: tiny fish eating the dead skin off customers’ feet. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the so-called “doctor fish” may carry bacteria that could cause serious infections.
Shortly after the fish pedicures began, public health agencies spoke out against the practice, prompting California, Florida and several other states to ban it.
On Wednesday the CDC published a report by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science in the United Kingdom, which studied the kinds of bacteria carried by the Garra rufa, or “doctor fish,” an inch-long silver carp native to Southeast Asia.
“To date there has been only limited information on the types of bacteria associated with these fish,” lead researcher David Verner-Jeffreys said. “Our study identified some of the species of bacteria associated with this fish species, including some that can cause infections in both fish and humans.”
It’s no secret that water provides a fertile breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria. Mix that with bacteria living on fish scales or in their waste and even the tiniest cut from an overzealous doctor fish, and the risk of infection is very real.
Doctor fish generally are imported to salons from Indonesia or Malaysia, which can make it difficult to control the quality of the fish breeding and environment.
After an outbreak of strep bacteria last year in a shipment of the fish, the British government seized five containers from London’s Heathrow Airport to study what kinds of bacteria the fish were carrying.
“The (strep) strain we isolated typically only causes disease in fish,” Verner-Jeffreys said. “We then went on to look at other consignments of apparently healthy imported G. rufa and found some other species of bacteria that can cause disease in humans and fish.”
These bacteria included: Aeromonas, which causes wound infections and gastrointestinal problems in humans; Streptococcus agalactiae, which causes skin and soft tissue infections; and Mycobacteria, which the study reported have been responsible for skin infections in some pedicure clients in the U.K.
Furthermore, the researchers found that these bacteria often were resistant to multiple drugs and therefore difficult to kill.