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Dermatology Online Journal

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Non-tuberculous mycobacterium skin infections after tattooing in healthy individuals: A systematic review of case reports


In recent years, several case reports and outbreaks reported occurrence of non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infections within 6 months after receiving a tattoo in healthy individuals. NTM species (e.g., Chelonae, Fortuitum, Hemophillum, and Abscessus) are widespread in the environment and it is often suspected that contamination may occur through unsterile instrumentation or unsterile water used for diluting tattoo ink to dilute color. In reported cases, lesions were mainly restricted to a single color ‘gray’ part of the tattoo. Mycobacterium Chelonae was the most common cause of tattoo associated NTM infections. Less than 50% of the case reports tested tattoo ink for acid fast bacilli stains and cultures. Subjects required treatment with either clarithromycin alone or in combination with quinolones for 6 to 9 months. An increase in NTM skin infections in healthy individuals after tattooing indicates the need for sterile standards during tattooing and improved local and regional regulatory oversight.

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