Many in New York get sick with tuberculosis after getting tattoos

Infection caused from contaminated tattoo ink 
By: Sarah Weiss 

Be careful where you got your tattoos.

Authorities said the contaminated water used in tattoo ink caused an outbreak of mysterious skin rashes in the state of New York.

Dermatologist Mark Goldgeiger discovered the link after finding traces of bacteria related to tuberculosis in a sample taken from a patient who had a bumpy red rash, around his new tattoo. "I told the patient he had tuberculosis, and he had a look of horror on his face," he told the news media reporting on the incident.

Goldgeiger’s patient, an otherwise healthy 20 year old male with several other tattoos, did not have the actual tuberculosis, but the doctor found a trail of bacteria related to the deadly germ. He had recently been at a tattoo parlor in Rochester, New York.

"As soon as the biopsy came back, I knew something in the process of tattooing was involved, Ink, water used for dilution, syringes or dressings." Authorities found 19 people who had been tattooed in the same place, all with gray ink, experienced skin infections.

But everything in the tattoo shop was checked, the artists were following all procedures of adequate sanitation, according to a case report published Wednesday in the news media. "We went there several times," said Dr. Byron Kennedy, Health Department of Monroe County. "We interviewed 19 patients. All confirmed that they observed the artist wearing gloves, using clean needles and the like."

Health officials approached the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control to test the ink. It turned out that the ink contain Mycobacterium chelonae, a bacterium that is a rare form of the germ that causes tuberculosis. The ink was purchased in Arizona.

The bacteria are possibly coming from distilled water, according to the CDC, which is not sterile, but often used in tattooing inks. During the investigation, the CDC found similar cases in Washington, Iowa and Colorado. Skin infections can cause itching and can be painful, and may last for months, according to the news media. They are treated with antibiotics. The ink was recalled.

Companies are urged to use only sterile water for tattoo inks, but are not required by law to do so.