Investigators Report Cases of Tattoo-Associated Nontuberculous Mycobacterial 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 (NTM) skin infections have been reported after tattooing. Dilution of tattoo inks with nonsterile water during tattooing has been implicated as a potential source of infection.

In this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a report features details of investigations of 22 cases of tattoo-associated NTM skin infections in New York, Washington, Iowa and Colorado that occurred during 2011 and 2012. Investigators found contamination of ink with NTM before use. NTM skin infections can occur during the manufacturing process as a result of using contaminated ingredients or as a result of dilution with nonsterile water by the tattoo artist before use. 

This report highlights the risk for tattoo-associated NTM skin infections resulting from use of contaminated inks or nonsterile water for ink dilution. To prevent infection, CDC recommends only sterile ink products and sterile water should be used, and also, appropriate hygienic practices should be followed when tattooing.

To read further from the Aug. 22, 2012 MMWR, CLICK HERE.