A worrisome superbug seen in prisoners and athletes is also showing up in people who get illegal tattoos, federal health officials said Thursday.
Forty-four tattoo customers in Ohio, Kentucky and Vermont developed skin infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The infections occurred in 2004 and 2005 and were traced to 13 unlicensed tattoo artists, according to an article in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
These are the first documented cases of tattoo-related MRSA infections, said Dr. Mysheika LeMaile-Williams, a CDC infectious disease investigator and coauthor of the report.
MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that fights off the body's immune system and destroys tissues. The community-associated variety, seen in the tattoo infections, has been diagnosed in otherwise healthy athletes, military recruits and prison inmates.