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Prevention of Acupuncture Infection Needs More Focus

Funding to promote safety guidelines urged by experts

THURSDAY, March 18, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- More needs to be done to prevent a rising tide of infections related to acupuncture, researchers from the University of Hong Kong say.

In a commentary, published online March 19 in BMJ, Patrick Woo and his colleagues stressed that "to prevent infections transmitted by acupuncture, infection control measures should be implemented, such as use of disposable needles, skin disinfection procedures, and aseptic techniques. Stricter regulation and accreditation requirements are also needed."

Five percent to 10 percent of acupuncture patients who develop certain kinds of bacterial infections go on to experience serious complications, the authors pointed out. These can include joint deterioration, flesh-eating disease and even paralysis and organ failure.

Other problems related to acupuncture infection include hepatitis B transmission and perhaps even transmission of hepatitis C and HIV, Woo said in a news release. There's also a new syndrome, called acupuncture mycobacteriosis, which can occur when contaminated items such as cotton swabs or towels come into contact with the needle-insertion point. This infection can lead to abscesses and ulcers.

The experts urge more funding to promote proper infection-control guidelines for acupuncture, which is one of the most widely practiced forms of alternative medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more on acupuncture.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, March 18, 2010
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