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Tattoos – Are They Safe? Inks Contain Bacteria That Cause Infections

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Tattoo inks, even those that have never been opened, can be contaminated with bacteria that cause infections, American scientists have found. New research indicates that as many as one-third of the inks analyzed were contaminated with bacteria.

Experts from the US government's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have taken a microbiological look at tattoo and permanent makeup inks available on the US market. The report of the new study has been published in “Applied and Environmental Microbiology”. It shows that even in closed, new containers of tattoo and permanent makeup inks, scientists have found various bacteria. Some species thrive in the conditions in the skin.

“Our research suggests that unopened, sealed inks may contain anaerobic bacteria, which are known to thrive in low-oxygen environments, such as those found in the skin. The inks may also contain aerobic bacteria,” said Dr. Seong-Jae (Peter) Kim, one of the paper's authors, quoted Tuesday on the website of the American Society for Microbiology, an organization of microbiologists.

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Almost 35 percent of the inks were contaminated

– This suggests that contaminated carcasses may be a cause of infections caused by various types of bacteria. These results indicate the need to monitor such products for the presence of both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, including pathogenic organisms – emphasizes the researcher.

About 35 percent of the inks tested by FDA experts were contaminated with bacteria. “Both types of bacteria: those that require oxygen (aerobic) and those that do not (anaerobic) can contaminate inks. We found no connection between the presence of bacteria and the manufacturer's sterility markings,” adds Dr. Kim.

The most frequently detected anaerobic bacteria turned out to be Cutibacterium acnes, which is a common cause of acne, and can also cause infections in patients after implantation of endoprostheses, vascular catheters or valves, and in people with reduced immunity. In some carcasses, bacteria such as Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus saprophyticus were also detected, associated with urinary tract infections, among others.

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Risks of getting a tattoo

– The increase in popularity of tattoos in recent years has been accompanied by an increase in the number of cases of complications and undesirable effects. It should be emphasized that bacterial infections are just one type of possible complications. Immune responses such as inflammation or allergies and reactions to toxic substances constitute a significant part of the problems. In light of our study, we want to emphasize the importance of continuous monitoring of these products in order to ensure their safety – emphasizes the expert.

Scientists are planning further, two-pronged research. First, they want to develop even more accurate and faster methods of detecting bacteria. Second, they intend to analyze the composition of bacterial contaminants in more detail, which will allow for the development of better methods of preventing them.

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Main image source: Shutterstock

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