In an editorial on bmj.com, experts are demanding further funding to establish appropriate infection control guidelines to deal with the growing number of acupuncture-transmitted diseases. The number of reported cases is described as “the tip of the iceberg” by Professor Patrick Woo and colleagues from the University of Hong Kong.
The authors call for clinicians to “have a high index of suspicion” for infections that might be transmitted by acupuncture and to “alert health authorities about clusters of cases”. They conclude that “to prevent infections transmitted by acupuncture, infection control measures should be implemented, such as use of disposable needles, skin disinfection procedures, and aseptic techniques”. “Stricter regulation and accreditation requirements are also needed,” they say.
The British Acupuncture Council says their members follow a strict code of conduct which includes infection control measures. The risk of severe side effects associated with acupuncture in the UK is one in every 200,000 cases. Acupuncture is currently unregulated in the UK, but the government is consulting on the issue. Anyone can set themselves up as an acupuncturist without training or accreditation. The government has recently been consulting on whether, and if so how, to regulate herbal medicine and acupuncture practitioners.