Fish Pedicures Aren’t Just Gross, Also Dangerous

Rachel Adler

We were all a little grossed out when we heard about the fish pedicure — that bizarre new ritual that became a “fad” because some people would rather have fish nibble at their feet instead of undergo the awkward scrubbing of the file against their calluses. Well now, these pedicures aren’t just gross, they can also be dangerous for your health according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Wednesday, the federal agency published a report by U.K’s Centre for Enviornment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science that examined the types of bacteria that were associated with Garra rufa (the inch-long toothless carp that nibble on the dead skin). These fish, which are called “doctor fish” became popular in salons across the country when it was realized that the nibbled on dead skin. Ick.

Although obviously gross, health officials have also been warning against the risk of infection especially for those with open sores, cuts or medical conditions like diabetes or comprised immune systems. As many as 14 states have banned the practice of fish pedicures already due to it’s riskiness, and now others are taking notice because of the latest findings. Lead researcher in the report, David Verner-Jeffreys said, “Our study identified some of the species of bacteria associated with this fish species, including some that can cause infections in both fish and humans.” He also mentioned that the combination of water, and fish scales, are a fertile breeding ground for bacteria.

Verner-Jeffreys and his team isolated multiple strains of apparently healthy fish, and found multiple species of bacteria, including a strep strain that only causes diseases in fish as well as Aeromanas, which causes wound infections and gastrointestinal problems in humans and Mycobacteria, which is responsible for skin infections in humans. What was worse, was Verner-Jeffreys found that the bacteria was resistant to most drugs.

“To date, there are only a limited number of reports of patients who might have been infected by this exposure route. However, our study raises some concerns over the extent that these fish, or their transport water, might harbor pathogens of clinical relevance,” said Verner-Jeffreys.

All I know, is I’m steering clear of any pedicure with a fish in it.