Acupuncture patients are at risk for bacterial infections, hepatitis B and C and maybe even HIV infection due to contaminated needles, cotton swabs and hot packs, according to experts writing in the British Medical Journal. Microbiologists from the University of Hong Kong have warned that the number of acupuncture-related infections worldwide was just the tip of the iceberg, calling for better infection control measures like disposable needles, skin infection procedures and aseptic techniques, the BBC reports. One of the most widely practiced types of alternative medicine, acupuncture is based on the notion that inserting and manipulating fine needles at certain points in the body helps promote the flow of “Qi,” or energy. It’s used for everything from obesity, pain treatment and arthritis. Needles are inserted several centimetres beneath the skin at times, say experts, who warn that up to 10 per cent of bacterial infections resulting from acupuncture end up with problems like joint destruction, multi-organ failure, flesh-eating disease and paralysis.