Cosmetic treatment can open the door to bacteria

March 11, 2014
Cosmetic treatment can open the door to bacteria
Injection of fillers: Side effects in the form of stubborn, tender lumps or even lesions are becoming an increasing problem.

Many people have 'fillers' injected into their facial tissue to give them 'bee-stung lips' or to smooth out their wrinkles. Unfortunately, a lot of cosmetic treatment customers experience unpleasant side effects in the form of tender subcutaneous lumps that are difficult to treat and which - in isolated cases - have led to lesions that simply will not heal. Research recently published by the University of Copenhagen now supports that, despite the highest levels of hygiene, this unwanted side effect is caused by bacterial infection.

Injections of fillers were previously reserved exclusively for trauma – when rebuilding a face disfigured in a traffic accident, for example. However, the jelly-like substances are increasingly being used in beauty treatments with the intention of making lips swell up and to erase the effects of ageing from the skin. Side effects in the form of stubborn, tender lumps or even lesions are becoming an increasing problem:

"Previously, most experts believed that the were caused by an auto-immune or allergic reaction to the gel injected. Research involving tissue from patients and mouse models has now shown that the disfiguring lesions are actually due to bacteria injected in connection with the . What is more, we have demonstrated that the fillers themselves act as incubators for infection, and all it takes is as few as ten bacteria to create an ugly lesion and a tough film of bacterial material – known as biofilm – which is impossible to treat with antibiotics," says Morten Alhede, a postdoc at the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology, University of Copenhagen.

The results have just been published in the journal Pathogens and Disease.

Biofilm is resistant to antibiotics

Treatment with fillers is very common. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), treatment with products based on hyaluronic acid – such as Restylane – constitutes the second-most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure in the United States. The precise figures for Denmark are not known, but there can be no doubt that the numbers are rising rapidly – and a rise in the number of treatments will inevitably make the side effects more evident.

"Because a lot of cosmetic practitioners refuse to accept that side effects from filler procedures are caused by bacteria, claiming that such problems are caused by allergic reactions, the usual procedure has been to treat with steroids. This is actually the worst possible treatment because steroid injections exacerbate the condition and give the bacteria free rein. Fortunately, many of the filler producers have now become aware of the risk of bacteria and recognise that the gel can act as a bacterial incubator," says Associate Professor Thomas Bjarnsholt from the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology. He continues:

"The problem will become very serious when the treatment becomes so widespread that people are able to walk in off the street to have their wrinkles smoothed out. Experts recommend keeping facial skin free from make-up for a month before undergoing a treatment involving fillers. Good hygiene is always important. Even when you abide by all the rules and regulations, it is difficult to avoid bacteria completely as they are often buried far below the surface of the skin."

Beauty with consequence

Researchers estimate that between 1:100 and 1:1000 - depending on the type of filler -develops an unfortunate which, in the worst-case scenario, may leave the person in question with a permanently disfigured face.

"Most people are unlikely to have any problems undergoing a filler treatment to smooth their skin. However, it's a bit like driving a car: there's nothing wrong with not wearing your seatbelt as long as you don't hit anything. If you do have an accident, however, it's almost impossible to walk away unharmed," says Thomas Bjarnsholt.

The biofilm that can develop in the wake of a filler treatment is resistant to antibiotics.

"The good news is that infections can be prevented by prophylactic antibiotic treatment, i.e. injecting antibiotics together with the filler itself during the cosmetic treatment process. Our new research emphasises how important it is for all practitioners to follow this procedure to prevent the unwanted complications," explains Morten Alhede.

More information: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2049-632X.12139/abstract

Related Stories

UK experts: Cosmetic surgery needs tighter rules

April 23, 2013

A group of independent experts has slammed Britain's cosmetic surgery industry for not protecting patients adequately and is calling for stricter controls in the aftermath of a breast implant scandal in Europe last year that ...

Rarely 'too early' for appearance-enhancing procedures

September 19, 2013

(HealthDay)—The effects of appearance-enhancing procedures such as neuromodulators, fillers, and light or laser treatments have lasting effects and can rarely be used "too early," according to a viewpoint piece published ...

Necks, butts growth areas for U.S. plastic surgeons

February 26, 2014

(HealthDay)—Eyelid surgery and facelifts are up. So are butt augmentations and neck lifts, according to new figures from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons that show a steady increase in cosmetic and reconstructive ...

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.