Surveillance and outbreak reports Open Access
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Sporadic cases and outbreaks of tattoo-associated skin infection with rapidly growing mycobacteria have been reported although they often contain few details of public health investigations and have not previously been systematically collated. We present the details of the public health investigation of a cluster of cases, which occurred in Scotland in 2010. Investigation of the cluster involved case finding, environmental investigation of the tattoo studio and pathological and microbiological investigation of possible cases and tattoo ink. Mycobacterium chelonae was isolated from one case and three probable cases were identified. M. chelonae was grown from an opened bottle of ink sourced from the studio these cases had attended. In addition, in order to identify all published cases, we conducted a systematic review of all reported cases of tattoo-associated skin infection with rapidly growing mycobacteria. A total of 25 reports were identified, describing 71 confirmed and 71 probable cases. Mycobacteria were isolated in 71 cases and M. chelonae was cultured from 48 of these. The most frequently postulated cause of infection was the dilution of black ink with tap water. Reports of tattoo-associated rapidly growing mycobacterial skin infection are increasing in frequency. Interested agencies must work with the tattoo industry to reduce the risk of contamination during tattoo ink manufacture, distribution and application.


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