The government’s Health Protection Agency, the UK In new a guidance published on said that Fish foot spa pedicures could spread diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, and people with diabetes, psoriasis or immunocompromised are particularly vulnerable and should not take part in this.

The agency says fish tank water contains micro-organisms and believes problems could arise from bacteria being transmitted by the pedicure’s garra rufa fish, from the spa water itself or from one customer to another if the water is not changed.  If a user is infected with a blood-borne virus like HIV or hepatitis and bleeds in the water, there is a risk the diseases could be passed on.

According to the agency’s guidance, the risk is ‘extremely low’ but it ‘cannot be completely excluded’.

An agency spokesman said: ‘We have issued this guidance because there are a growing number of these spas.

‘When the correct hygiene procedures are followed, the risk of infection is very low. The HPA has recommended that spa water is changed after each client. The equipment cannot be conventionally sterilized because the process could harm the fish, of which there are about 200 in every tank.

The pedicures – which have long been popular in Asia where the fad began – have been banned in some U.S. states, including Florida, Texas, New Hampshire and Washington, due to fears that infections could spread through open wounds.

The trend, which is meant to leave clients with smooth and attractive feet, has spread to beauty salons across the country and there are now around 280 fish spas in the UK.

Amy Childs and James Argent from the Only Way is Essex have had the treatment.

A spokeswoman for HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust said: ‘The risk of picking up infections is minimal but people must be careful where they choose to go.’

Dr Kilbride said salons should first check their clients have no underlying health conditions that could put them at risk, and thoroughly examine their feet to make sure there are no cuts, grazes or infectious skin conditions.

Dr Paul Cosford, the HPA’s director of health protection services, added: ‘If a member of the public is concerned about the level of cleanliness of a salon they visit, they should report this to their local environmental health department.’

The HPA guidance has been endorsed by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland.

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