Monday, January 31, 2011

Doctor Fish Go Commercial

Photo courtesy: appyfeet

Garra Rufa, also known as doctor fish, nibble fish, little dermatologists, kangal fish or reddish log sucker, have nibbled their way into modern medicine one dead skin cell at a time. Doctor fish first caught the attention of the medical field when the overwhelming rate of improvement experienced by psoriasis sufferers who frequented these Turkish spas was brought to light.

These native fish have been used as a traditional medicine for over 400 years in Turkey. Garra Rufa normally occur in the river basins of the Northern and Central Middle East with Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran having the majority of the population.

The traditional Turkish spas have bathes big enough to submerge one's entire body; and, bathers have no problem with the communal bathes whose water is filled with these little flesh eaters. The toothless Garra Rufa gently chew away only dead and/or diseased tissue leaving healthy tissue totally untouched. The removal of the dead flesh is accomplished with the help of a powerful enzyme, diathranol, in its saliva to help compensate for the lack of teeth. Some even think there is a curative power in the fishes' saliva.

Ms. Barbara Grayston spent several hours a day in a pool with the "doctor fish" hoping for a miracle cure for her psoriasis. Photo courtesy: bbcnews

The spas are filled with locally-occurring, selenium-rich water in an open-air venue. Locals believe that the clients benefit from the time spent in the open, fresh air; exposing the skin to the selenium-rich water; and, opening the skin below the lesions to allow the healing waters to penetrate to that skin as well. Selenium is a natural skin-healing mineral.

A side-by-side comparison shot of Ms Grayson's back - before and after treatment. The results look phenomenal to me. Photo courtesy: bbcnews

Many Garra Rufa now live and breed in the outdoor pools of Turkish spas where they feed mainly on the skin of patients with psoriasis. Among frequenters of these spas, 87.5% said they experienced great relief from both pain and redness or lesions; but, note they must come back to the spas every few months to keep their skin disease in remission. However, there are people who say their psoriasis or other skin disease has been completely cured by the tender ministrations of these tiny toothless doctors; and, all sufferers hope they may be the next cure.

Photo courtesy: appyfeet

These fish are capable of doing so much good for so many people. I immediately think of burn victims that must have burnt skin agonizingly removed before treatment can commence. I can't help thinking that this a gentler, kinder way of debriding the area affected.

While visions of fairies, sugar plums; and, lessening pain worldwide danced in my head; corporate greed has found yet another way to exploit our planet and its inhabitants.

These hardy little workers are now legally protected from commercial exploitation in Turkey due to concerns of overharvesting for export. The beauty treatment centres have run amok. They are importing these fish to perform pedicures on clients.

For keeners of this treatment it should be noted that while Garra Rufa can be kept in an aquarium at home; aquarium specimens are not well suited for home applications as the skin-feeding behavior fully manifests only under conditions where the food supply is somewhat scarce and unpredictable.

They are banned in several states in the USA based on health and sanitation concerns; and, animal rights groups are worried about the Garra Rufas' future well-being, treatment and handling.

Photo courtesy: appyfeet

Animal rights groups have also voiced alarm over the conditions in which the fish are kept. "We do have concerns about the welfare of any fish involved in this practice," a spokeswoman for the RSPCA told the Observer.
"Fish are covered by the Animal Welfare Act. They need a stable environment, with the correct water quality and temperature range. Sudden changes in temperature should be avoided as they can severely compromise welfare and even kill the animals. Water quality is of paramount importance in maintaining healthy fish. Having people bathe in the water with the fish is likely to affect quality, particularly if they are wearing any lotions or other toiletries that could leach into the water. Similarly, chemicals used to disinfect tanks and to clean patients' feet beforehand would have to be non-toxic to the fish."
A short video showing a spa in Turkey.

Weigh in - environmental issue or not.

1 comment:

Patty said...

Wonderful post! I read about these little fish before and they've been featured in a couple of complimentary medicine programs as well. I often thought: 'it's just a matter of time before greedy, unethical people will be exploiting them'.