Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fish Nibblers no more?

Garra rufa (sometimes called Doctor Fish) are a type of ray-finned fish in the family Cyprinidae. Garras are slim with a flat belly and a sucking mouth. They were originally found in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran and their healing and beauty properties of Garra Rufa fish have been known for hundreds of years. From the early 1800s tourists have flocked to the Turkish Spa Pools in Kangal for fish nibbling sessions. Kangal garra rufa fish carry an enzyme, called Dithranol, in the mouth. Dithranol is sometimes used in the treatment of psoriasis. When the Turkish government realised the commercial worth of exporting Kangal garra rufa fish they banned their in 1996. By this time Doctor Fish Spas had become well established in Japan before rapidly spreading throughout Asia, mushrooming in countries like Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. At the beginning of the millennium Doctor Fish Spas opened in America. Many of the garra rufa fish found in spa facilities outside Turkey were cross-bred, look-a-like fish or garra rufa fish that are from the second or further generation in line. There are only a few companies in the world that offer first line or F1 original Turkish Kangal garra rufa fish. Because there were concerns fake fish were being used treatments involving garra rufa fish were initially Dr Foot Spas were banned in the US for several years.This was later relinquished on the provision original garra rufa fish were used. As therapeutic fish nibbling has spread to Europe and the UK similar controls have been in place to resist the practice to F1 fish only. As golable economies have dipped novelty fish pedicures were viewed with relish as revenue enhancer by struggling nail salons. However genuine concerns have continued because the fish could be source of cross contamination of blood borne viruses such as Hep C. The only way to prevent this would be to use the fish shoals once and once only which is cost prohibitive. Hence once again the practice of fish nibbling has been banned in several of the United States and Canadian provinces as cosmetology regulators believe the practice is unsanitary.

Watery Footnote
Scientific research demonstrates spa fish experience both behaviour and physiological changes as a result of skin nibbling. Levels of cortisol in overstocked tanks (similar to the numbers found in foot spas) was significantly higher than fish in optimally stocked environments. By comparison, other fish such trout, their cortisol levels drop when stocked in overcrowded conditions. Cortisol is a hormone created by the adrenal glands and scientists believe cortisol levels are a good indicator of chronic stress in fish.

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