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Woman Dies After Hong Kong Beauty Treatment
A woman has died and three others are fighting for their lives after having a controversial treatment in a Hong Kong beauty parlour.
Police and the medical authorities are investigating the death of the 46-year-old in a case that has highlighted the lack of regulation in the city's cosmetic industry.
The four women fell ill after having a complicated blood transfusion procedure at the DR beauty chain, according to government statements.
They paid around £4,000 each for the treatment, which is claimed to boost the immune system and appearance.
The other three women, aged 56, 59 and 60, are all in hospital and the oldest is in a critical condition.
DR said in a statement that the procedures were carried out by a doctor who was not employed by the parlour.
The case has sparked fresh calls by health experts for tighter regulation of the Hong Kong beauty industry.
They argue the procedure is at best an experimental treatment for cancer patients and has not been shown to have any aesthetic application so far.
It involves isolating the blood so that certain types of immune cells - called "cytokine-induced killer cells" - can be cultured.
These cells were injected back into the women together with their own blood plasma, but they quickly fell ill with fever, dizziness and diarrhoea.
The 46-year-old died of septic shock, which is normally caused by bacterial infection and can cause respiratory and organ failure.
Early post-mortem tests by health officials showed the presence of Mycobacterium abscessus, a superbug that is notoriously difficult to kill.
Although the direct cause of the woman's death has yet to be confirmed, experts say it is likely to have been bacterial infection.
William Chui, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists in Hong Kong, said: "They now have to find out where the bacterial contamination occurred in this whole process.
"Did it happen when the blood was drawn, during the culture process or when it was reinjected back into the body?"
Governments in many regions of Asia regulate doctors' conduct and the sale of medicine, but exercise little or no control over beauty salons and "healthcare" products.
In Singapore in 2002, 15 women developed liver problems and one died after consuming Chinese-made slimming pills that were later found to contain two undeclared ingredients.
Felice Lieh Mak, a leading medical expert in Hong Kong and former chairman of the Medical Council, said: "We hope that this tragedy will result in some attempt at making a legislation, or at least work towards legislating and defining what medical treatment is."