The subject of pregnancy and tattoos are not new (it is not recommended) but the topic of a tuberculosis-type skin infection related to getting a tattoo is. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) encourages healthcare workers to warn the public about an unusual skin infection called nontuberculous mycobacterial or NTM. NTM is a cousin of tuberculosis (also known as “TB”) that causes lung disease and leprosy. Unlike TB, NTM is not contagious and is usually found in water and soil. It appears as a red, bumpy rash that is often misdiagnosed because it is only seen in HIV patients or those who have a low resistance to infections. In recent months, outbreaks of NTM were found in 19 patients near Rochester, New York, all who had tattoos done from the same tattoo parlor.
Tattoos are nothing new and date back almost 5,000 years as evidenced by Egyptian mummies. They have become increasingly popular in the U.S. Who can forget Mike Tyson’s infamous facial tattoo or the one Halle Berry removed when she divorced her former husband, David Justice? Although there are state and local rules regulating tattoos, the ink used to make tattoos are not regulated by the FDA. However, it is the FDA’s responsibility to keep citizens safe.
A formal investigation found that the tattoo salon involved had not violated any public hygiene rules but had used contaminated ink that came from a manufacturer in Arizona. These NTM cases came to light when the treatments for skin infections treated by primary care physicians were not working and a dermatologist biopsied one of the patients and made the diagnosis.
What does the infection look like? There are red bumps that appear at the tattoo site, specifically in the area of the contaminated ink. Once properly diagnosed, the infection goes away. The danger of getting this infection is that, untreated, it can become contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (also known as “MRSA”) which is extremely difficult to treat and cause death.
This is yet another reason to think twice before getting a tattoo, pregnant moms. Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.