‘Pedicure Fish’ May Harbor Pathogens for Zoonotic Disease

(HealthDay News) – Garra rufa (G. rufa), or doctor fish — widely used in the health and beauty industries around the world, although currently banned in many US states — may harbor zoonotic disease pathogens, according to a letter to the editor published online May 16 in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases.

David W Verner-Jeffreys, PhD, from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science Weymouth Laboratory in the United Kingdom, and colleagues investigated infection of fish imported to the United Kingdom from Indonesia for pedicure spas, following a report of disease outbreak among 6,000 G. rufa fish from Indonesia in April 2011.

On histopathologic examination, the researchers identified systemic bacterial infections with small gram-positive cocci, which were identified as Streptococcus agalactiae (S. agalactiae), from the outbreak in April. In May and June of 2011, inspection of G. rufa fish, imported from Indonesia, revealed a taxonomically diverse range of bacteria, including human pathogens. These included Aeromonas species, potentially pathogenic clinical-type Vibrio vulnificus isolates, nonserotype O1 or O139 cholera toxin-negative Vibrio cholerae isolates, Mycobacteria, and S. agalactiae — all of which can cause invasive soft tissue infections. Isolates were resistant to a range of antimicrobial drugs.

“Our study raises some concerns over the extent that these fish, or their transport water, might harbor potential zoonotic disease pathogens of clinical relevance,” the authors write. “This risk can probably be reduced by use of certified disease-free fish reared in controlled facilities under high standards of husbandry and welfare.”

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