October 1, 2012

Tattoo Associated Skin Infections

Tattoo Associated Skin Infections

Permanent tattoos have become increasingly common, with 21 percent of adults in the United States reporting having at least one tattoo. On rare occasions, outbreaks of nontuberculous mycobacterial skin infections have been reported after tattooing and in January 2012, public health officials in New York received reports of Mycobacterium chelonae skin infections in 14 New York residents who received tattoos during September - December 2011. All infections were associated with use of the same nationally distributed, pre diluted gray ink.

Treatment of Localized infections:

  • Clarithromycin monotherapy (500 mg. PO twice daily) is typically adequate. There is less clinical experience with azithromycin, but response is likely similar.
  • Surgical debridement is often a helpful adjunct to antibiotic treatment.
  • Acquired resistance to clarithromycin has not been observed when clarithromycin has been used as monotherapy for localized disease.

More Information

Tattoo Inks Pose Health Risks  (FDA Report)

Tattoo-Associated Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Skin Infections  (CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report)

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