Surveillance and outbreak report Open Access
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We report a national outbreak from a common source following piercings between July and September 2016 in England. The multi-agency outbreak investigation included active case finding, microbiological testing of environmental samples and case specimens including Variable Number Tandem Repeat (VNTR) typing and a retrospective cohort study. Overall, 162 outbreak cases (29 confirmed, 14 probable and 119 possible) and 14 non-outbreak cases were identified; all confirmed cases had ear piercings (93% cartilage). Outbreak cases were predominantly female (95%) and had a median age of 18 years (interquartile range: 13–56 years). Nineteen outbreak cases required surgery under general anaesthetic The same outbreak VNTR type (11,3,5,3,3,3,6,4,7) was isolated from bottles of an aftercare solution from a single manufacturer and in specimens from confirmed cases who attended eight different piercing studios supplied with this product. In the cohort study, use of aftercare solution was associated with becoming a case (aOR: 4.60, 95% confidence interval: 1.65–12.90). Environmental, microbiological and epidemiological investigations confirmed that contamination during production of aftercare solution was the source of this national outbreak; highlighting challenges in the regulation of a cosmetic products used in the piercing industry and that guidance on piercing aftercare may need to be reviewed.


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