Czech hygienists warn against the popular fish pedicure.

Fish pedicures are popular in Prague, but hygienists warn against them, according to a press release by Dana Mertová. Mertová is a spokesperson for the Hygienická stanice hlavního města Prahy (HSHMP), Prague’s hygienic station. Particularly popular among tourists, the treatment is offered around Prague’s city center.

The treatment consists of soaking one’s feet and calves in an aquarium filled with a freshwater fish called garra rufa. Also known as doctor fish, the fish nibble at the top layer of the skin, supposedly having a healing effect. The fish do not have teeth, and is a “fun and quite a pleasant process,” according to the press release.

Garra rufa fish, aka doctor fish Source: Wikipedia
Garra rufa fish, aka doctor fish
Source: Wikipedia

Despite the experiences potential beneficial and pleasant effects, the HSHMP warns against the treatment. “’The risk of transmitting infection from either fish to humans or humans to humans (via water and fish) or possibly the water itself can not be ruled out. That is why I can not recommend such a procedure,’ says Jan Jarolímek, Director of the Hygienic Station of the City of Prague,” according to the press release.

“According to the latest research, the procedure is dangerous not only for people with impaired immunity but also for patients with psoriasis. Also in the Czech Republic, studies have been published suggesting that fish can be carriers of atypical mycobacteriosis, atypical TB, which may be affected by skin damage and can transmit molds,” according to the press release.

Psoriasis is a condition where the skin cells multiply up to 10 times faster than normal, according to WebMD. You can learn more about the disorder by clicking here. The garra rufa fish are supposed to help treat psoriasis, according to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC). The fact that the fish treatment could be dangerous for those with the condition is conflictual and ironic. Currently, more than 10 U.S. states have banned the garra rufa fish, according to the CDC.

An example of psoriasis Source: WebMD
An example of psoriasis.
Source: WebMD

Despite the warning, the HSHMP has not received any complaints about infections or other issues caused by the fish. However, “According to the experience of the Prague hygienists, it is mainly composed of foreign tourists who leave most of Prague soon after the procedure,” according to the press release.

“CDC is not aware of any published reports on illnesses resulting from fish pedicures. Nail salon foot baths, however, have caused outbreaks of nontuberculous mycobacterial infections that left infected pedicure customers with boils and scars,” according to the CDC.