Posted on Mar 22, 2010 by Sergio Ulloa
The results of a global study conducted by Microbiologists from the University of Hong Kong have found a link between infections and acupuncture performed with poorly sanitised needles. According to this research, these findings appear to be just the beginning of more reported cases of infections since the 1970s, including hepatitis B and C and HIV.
The report, released as an editorial in a recent British Medical Journal aims to call on regulatory boards to enforce stricter training and cleanliness among practitioners, so that proper sterilisation of needles is followed or better yet, make the use of disposable needles compulsory.
In addition of clean, disposable needles, researchers call for other infection control measures to be jointly implemented, including skin disinfection procedures, aseptic techniques and proper application.
Since acupuncture has gained worldwide popularity, the warnings and recommendations contained in this study are relevant to help prevent future cases of infection, particularly in light of five outbreaks of hepatitis B linked directly to dirty acupuncture needles and several cases of HIV-positive patients whose only risk factor was participation in acupuncture. It is believed that most patients affected in this way might not be aware that acupuncture was the culprit of their illness.
An entirely new ailment known as mycobacteriosis, has been traced specifically to acupuncture and it is caused by infected needles inserted a few centimetres deep into the skin, causing bacterial outbreaks that lead to abscesses and ulcers. In the great majority of these cases, patients fully recover and only about 5 to 10 percent develop symptoms that become life-threatening, such as organ failure, flesh-eating disease or even paralysis. This new illness has a long incubation period, which may be the reason why some patients fail to connect their symptoms to the acupuncture treatment.
The study aims to raise awareness in countries where acupuncture is not already regulated, about the proper procedures to observe in order to prevent infections caused by poorly sterilised needles and improper application.