A Woman's Toenails Fell Off After a Fish Pedicure

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The unidentified patient's nails separated from her first three toes over the six months since she received the spa treatment, in which garrarufa fish, or "doctor fish", nibble off dead skin around the feet. She had no medical problems, no problems with foot fungus, and no recent injuries to her toes.

Lipner would not reveal where the woman got the pedicure, but noted the treatment has been banned in at least 10 states, largely due to health concerns. It can be caused by trauma, like an injury, or by certain conditions or medications, according to a paper published a year ago in the journal Cutis.

A woman reportedly lost her toenails after getting a fish pedicure.

During a fish pedicure, people immerse their feet in warm water and let doctor fish eat away at dead skin.

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"First, tubs and fish can not be adequately sanitized between people", Lipner said, "with the same fish typically reused for several persons".

Lipner is unaware of any other such cases linked to fish spas, whose popularity seem to have drawn from unfounded claims about their health benefits, according to her report.

And even if spa owners can properly sanitize the fish and tubs, research shows disease-causing bacteria can be readily found in both the tubs and fish used in these spas, she added.

"We will have to wait quite a while to see the outcome", she said. There other known causes of onychomadesis were ruled out, so it's thought that the fish pedicure is to blame.

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However, it turns out that these fish spas that offer you a pedicure may not be as good as you think.

The woman's toenails will likely return, but it will take a long time as nails only grow about one millimeter a month on average. "Thus, there are concerns of transmitting infections between people undergoing these pedicures".

In the new case, it's not exactly clear how fish pedicures might cause onychomadesis, but it's likely that trauma from the fish biting multiple nails caused the nails to stop growing, the report said. In their natural habitats, they subsist on plankton, but in a spa setting, they'll consume human skin cells, Lipner wrote in the report. David Verner-Jeffreys, a senior microbiologist at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the United Kingdom, stated the culprit for the outbreak was streptococcal bacteria, which is found fish like tilapia.

Despite the name, "fish pedicures do not meet the legal definition of a pedicure", the CDC says.

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Lipner said in the JAMA report, "First, tubs and fish can not be adequately sanitized between people, and the same fish are typically reused for successive persons".

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