Left: Human MRSA infection
(Atlanta, GA) The popularity of unlicensed tattoo artists is being linked with outbreaks of the potentially deadly bacterial infection methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
MRSA is a strain of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium that has developed antibiotic resistance to all drugs in the penicillin family.
44 tattoo customers in Ohio, Kentucky and Vermont developed skin infections traced to 13 unlicensed tattoo artists in the last two years.
Symptoms of MRSA infection range from skin boils to necrotizing fasciitis, sometimes referred to as "flesh-eating disease" in the popular press. MRSA infections have been combatted in the past decade with the antibiotic vancomycin, but vancomycin-resistant staphyloccocus has increasingly appeared in the past five years.
MRSA infections can be transmitted from person to person by contact with draining sores, through contact with contaminated items, and in some cases from animals infected with MRSA.
Occasionally staphylococci can enter the body and cause serious and sometimes fatal conditions such as blood infections or pneumonia.
The CDC found that the unlicensed tattoo artists did not practice necessary hygiene practices, and that instead of doing the work in tattoo parlors, the body art was done in the homes of the tattooists or the recipients, or in public parks.
Unlicensed artists have increased in popularity due to their ability to charge lower prices than licensed commercial tattoo operators.