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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Woo 2010.

Acupuncture and infection: a small but real risk

updated
Woo PC, Lin AW, Lau SK, Yuen KY. Acupuncture transmitted infections. BMJ. 2010 Mar 18;340:c1268Oh, I. PubMed #20299695.
Tags: acupuncture, controversy, random, mind, debunkery, energy work

PainSci summary of Woo 2010?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

What’s the harm in acupunture? A small but real risk of infection — as with anything that breaks the skin. Acupuncture has not only failed to prove that it works, but this British Medical Journal editorial presents new evidence that it also involves a risk of mycobacteria infection, and even that “… outbreaks of acupuncture transmitted infections may be the tip of the iceberg. The first reports of meticillin resistant S aureus (MRSA) transmitted by acupuncture appeared in 2009. The emergence of community associated MRSA infections may aggravate the problem.”

A common objection to Woo’s article has been that it is “mongers fear” and that he cites old evidence, from the 1970s and 1980s, before sterized needles were widely used. But critics conveniently overlook that Woo also cite modern evidence of infection — about as blatant a case of biased interpretation as you could ask for. And is Woo a fear mongerer? He does not claim that the risk is great: he just reports what is known and titles his piece neutrally. It is always worthwhile to examine treatment risks, and especially when treatment benefits are also hotly disputed. It hardly constitutes “fear-mongering” to report risk data in a medical journal! If not there, then where?

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract

Acupuncture transmitted infections are underdiagnosed, so clinicians should have a high index of suspicion.

Acupuncture, which is based on the theory that inserting and manipulating fine needles at specific acupuncture points located in a network of meridians will promote the harmonious flow of “Qi,” is one of the most widely practised modalities of alternative medicine. Because needles are inserted up to several centimetres beneath the skin, acupuncture may pose risks to patients. One of the most important complications is transmission of pathogenic micro-organisms, from environment to patient or from one patient to another.

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This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog.