A few weeks ago, JAMA Dermatology published an article by Dr. Shari Lipner about a woman whose toe nails fell off due to onychomadesis after visiting a fish spa. Dr. Lipner suggested that the fish were Gurra Rufa, since this is the fish commonly used in fish therapy (ichthyotherapy), but did not actually provide evidence that the fish at the spa were actually identified. In fact fish spas commonly use less expensive fish, such as tilapia. Tilapia are more aggressive than Garra rufa, have teeth, and on occasion have drawn blood. It is much more likely that the fish that caused this woman’s nails to fall off was not Garra rufa. We are grateful that Dr. Lipner identified what might be a fish spa-associated risk; but we are concerned that an unsubstantiated claim that the culprit was Garra rufa will now enter the literature as fact, and potentially even jeopardize support for legitimate Garra rufa research. The Journal editor was informed of this issue but chose not to correct or acknowledge the problem. Therefore, we invite you to submit a letter to the Editor of JAMA-Dermatology, asking them to be more careful in condemning Garra rufa or any other animal without hard evidence. A draft letter and a one-button submission form can be found here:
You can also write to some of the news websites that have repeated this misinformation. A link to those websites can be found here along with a draft comment:
You may modify the draft letter and comment to your liking. Do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for your assistance in correcting the biomedical record.