Vibrio vulnificus septic shock due to a contaminated tattoo

by Science Editor

Can your new tattoo kill you? under the right circumstances yes, This article confirms why all clients need to be medically screened and aftercare carefully explained prior to tattooing.

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Vibrio vulnificus septic shock due to a contaminated tattoo.

Abstract: The authors report a lethal case of septic shock in a patient with pre-existing chronic liver disease subsequent to leg tattooing and then seawater exposure in the Gulf of Mexico.
Industry Significance Rating:

High - Industry alert, report has major implications related to health and safety.


BMJ Case Reports 2017; doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-220199.

Authors: Hendren N, Sukumar S, Glazer CS.
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Clients who have major medical conditions such as chronic liver disease may be more susceptible to infections after skin penetration services and if infections do occur they may be significantly more serious.

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that is know to be capable of causing septicaemia particularly in those with pre-existing medical conditions such as hepatic disease, Vibrio vulnificus is found in seawater, estuaries and brackish pools of water and is often associated with shellfish and plankton.

Vibrio vulnificus may cause aggressive infections such as cellulitis and necrotizing fasciitis, in susceptible individuals infections may become systemic and potentially life threatening


Clients who disclose that they have major medical conditions should be advised to seek medical advice/consent prior to skin penetration services such as tattooing and if medical consent is provided additional precautions may be required upon the advice of their treating doctors.

All clients should be informed about the risks of exposing the skin to untreated or potentially contaminated water after any form of skin penetration procedure (e.g. rainwater, groundwater, and other untreated water supplies, as well as swimming or bathing in pools and spa's, rivers, lakes, dams or the ocean)


Scientific Report,  body art tattoo, systemic infection, cellulitis, fatality, adverse reactions, septic shock


The Education Team here at keeps a close eye on the scientific and medical literature for new publications relating to cosmetic and medical tattooing that may be of interest to customers. The intent is to alert industry members to important publications within the literature to expand the knowledge base particularly in relation to high impact reports.

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