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Department of Health


Cosmetic eyebrow tattoos and body tattoos could lead to contamination by the mycobacterium haemophilum (MH): The public need to exercise caution and aim to prevent it.

In the quest for beauty and attention, many people are willing to undergo cosmetic eyebrow tattoos or body tattoos. People must be aware of the importance of hygiene and disinfection in such instances as well as being informed regarding blood-borne diseases and contamination caused by MH together with symptoms of skin rashes, pustule, lymphatic inflammation and so on. Infections should always be medicated and if serious, hospitalization may be necessary. The Bureau of Disease Control of the Department of Health reminds people who suffer from chronic diseases such as blood-borne diseases or diabetes, to avoid any kind of invasive cosmetic procedures such as eyebrow or body tattoos.
The Bureau of Disease Control indicates that MH infection often happens with skin infections or with immune system dysfunction. Such cases have been found in the USA, Switzerland and the ROC.? Last Year (2010), a Taiwanese patient was diagnosed with leg ulceration caused by cosmetic surgery. The event led to a medical dispute; the problem was later attributed to infection by and the Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM).
The Bureau of Disease Control reported in their latest journal, “Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID)” the case of a healthy male, resident in Seattle, USA, who had a tattoo on his left forearm when he was 44 years of age. Three days hence, the tattooed area had a painless rash to which the man applied an anti-inflammatory cream but with little effect. Twelve days later, skin lumps appeared in the same position and the symptoms persisted for a further two weeks. After many further attempts at medication, it was confirmed as an infection of MH.? In October of the same year, another case was reported with exactly the same position of tattoo. The source of infection in both cases has still not been confirmed.
In addition, the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) also reported cases of 12 women with an average age of 56 and with no specific pathology in course, who underwent cosmetic eyebrow tattooing and were infected with MH? one after the other from April to December 2009.? These 12 women presented with wounds around their eyes and eyebrows as well as lymphatic inflammation in the neck; 10 out of 12 needed surgical intervention. Post investigation findings revealed that the dying materials used in the tattoos on these 12 women were contaminated with MH.
The Bureau of Disease Control indicated that MH is a type of NTM, which lives mainly in water and survives in an environment of 30℃. It is often present in skin infections and people who have an immune system dysfunction.? People who are infected will present symptoms such as skin lumps or papules and pustule. Few of them would have very serious symptoms such as septicemia arthritis, osteomyelitis, and pneumonia and generalized inflammation.? Eyebrow tattooing is the same as body tattooing in that the needle will pierce into the deeper layer of skin. Once the tool or dying materials is contaminated by bacteria, the needle would cause inflamed wounds and leave scars. In a more serious scenario, bacteria would flow into the vessel or lymph which in turn, would cause generalized inflammation. The Bureau of Disease stresses health should always be a top priority in the pursuit for beauty.
Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare (formerly known as Department of Health, Executive Yuan, R.O.C.(TAIWAN))