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SMU Student Forms Volunteer Group to Increase Awareness of Bacteria Outbreaks at Nail Salons

A public health presentation by Associate Professor Richard Rocco on Mycobacterium outbreaks in Bay Area nail salons inspired third-year podiatry student Chia-Ding (JD) Shih do something about it.

“Dr. Rocco mentioned that there were state regulations in place, but because there were still cases of Mycobacterium, they probably were not being followed,” said Shih. “He wasn’t aware of Podiatry being involved with prevention and treatment. So we had this idea.”

The idea was to form a volunteer group that could help increase awareness and decrease the prevalence of Mycobacterium skin infections at local salons. According to Shih, the goal of the group is to develop practical guidelines that the salons will be more apt to adopt.

Mycobacteria in whirlpool footbaths at nail salons can pose an infectious risk for pedicure customers. Outbreaks have been known to cause prolonged boils on the lower legs that leave scars when healed. In his research, Dr. Rocco had found that specific outbreaks have occurred in Watsonville, Mountain View, San Jose and San Francisco since 2000. Forty cases were reported in 2011. 


“Our goal is to understand why the current guidelines don’t seem to be working, and to increase the awareness of outbreaks,” Shih said. “Hopefully, as the result of our effort, we can decrease the prevalence of skin infection from pedicure salons. This essentially is a long-term research project.”

Click here to read the whole story in the March issue of eNews.

pictured: Podiatry volunteer group members, from left to right: Chia-Ding (JD) Shih (class 2014), David Tien (class 2015), Anna Tien (class 2015), Megan Allen (class 2016) and Lacey Beth Peck (class 2016). Not pictured: Dara Taeb (class 2016) and Kevin Grierson (class 2016)