REFILE-Beauty treatment kills Hong Kong woman, three ill


(Adds editor's name)

* Authorities launch investigation

* Procedure at best experimental, no data it had aestheticapplication

* Experts call for beauty industry to be regulated By Tan Ee Lyn

HONG KONG, Oct 11 (Reuters) - A 46-year-old woman has diedin Hong Kong and three others are fighting for their livesfollowing a beauty parlour treatment that involves bloodtransfusion, highlighting a lack of regulation in the city'scosmetic industry.

The cases have prompted an investigation by police andmedical authorities, and renewed calls by health experts fortighter regulation of Hong Kong's beauty industry.

"Yes, the woman aged 46 died (Wednesday morning) of septicshock," a government spokeswoman said. Three others, aged 56, 59and 60, were in hospital with the eldest in critical condition.

Septic shock is normally caused by bacterial infection andcan result in respiratory and organ failure, even death.

The four had recently undergone a complicated bloodtransfusion procedure at the DR beauty chain, according togovernment statements, in a treatment that was meant to boosttheir immune system and appearance.

The women paid around HK$50,000 ($6,400) for the procedure,which experts say is at best an experimental treatment forcancer patients and which has not shown to have any aestheticapplication so far.

DR said in a statement on Wednesday that the procedures werecarried out by a doctor who was not employed by the parlour.

The procedure required their blood to be taken to isolateand culture certain types of immune cells. These"cytokine-induced killer cells" were then injected back into thewomen together with their own blood plasma.

The four quickly fell ill with fever, dizziness anddiarrhea. In an earlier blood sample taken from the woman whodied, health officials found Mycobacterium abscessus, a superbugthat is notoriously difficult to kill.

Although the direct cause of the woman's death has yet to beconfirmed, experts say it is likely to have been bacterialinfection.

"They now have to find out where the bacterial contaminationoccurred in this whole process. Did it happen when the blood wasdrawn, during the culture process or when it was reinjected backinto the body?" said William Chui, president of the Society ofHospital Pharmacists in Hong Kong.

The cases raise fresh questions on how governments in manyplaces in Asia regulate doctors' conduct and sale of medicines,but exercise little or no control over what goes on in beautyparlours or what goes into "healthcare" products.

In Singapore in 2002, 15 women developed liver problems andone died after consuming Chinese-made slimming pills that werelater found to contain two undeclared ingredients. One of thepatents, an actress, survived only after a liver transplant.

Felice Lieh Mak, a leading medical expert in Hong Kong andformer chairman of the Medical Council, said: "We hope that thistragedy will result in some attempt at making a legislation, orat least work towards legislating and defining what medicaltreatment is."($1 = 7.7526 Hong Kong dollars)

(Additional reporting by Christina Lo; Editing by Elaine Lies)

((el.tan@thomsonreuters.com)(+852-28436934)(Reuters Messaging:el.tan.thomsonreuters.com@thomsonreuters.net))