A new trend in spas around the world is the use of fish to feed on the dead skin of it patrons. The Garra rufa, or commonly known as "Doctor Fish" are small carp originating from the Middle East that prefer to dine on human skin.
This method is being used for the treatment of eczema and psoriasis, since the fish will aggressively eat the dead skin of those afflicted. The toothless fish actually prefer the thickened dead skin found in these disease conditions.
However, there are health concerns about using this bizarre method of therapy. A recent study conducted in the UK found the following potentially pathogenic bacteria in several batches of fish imported from Indonesia:
· Vibrio vulnificus
· Mycobacterium spp
· Aeromonas spp.
· Streptococcus agalactiae (Group B)
In addition, the UK Health Protection Agency issued a warning last year that fish foot spas could potentially spread blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis and HIV if infected clients bleed into the spa water.
Several states in the US have banned this practice, since the use of fish conflict with regulations that require all instruments used in a pedicure to be either sterilized or discarded. The Doctor Fish are far too expensive to throw away after each use.
Although the reported incidence of disease caused by Doctor Fish has been low to date, the CDC is monitoring the situation closely