The resurgence of bedbug infestations have been a nuisance at best for hotels and homeowners as scientists have always said that the tiny blood-sucking creatures didn’t carry infectious agents that could harm humans.
However, new research out of Canada reported Wednesday sheds some different light of the issue of bedbugs as a vector of disease.
In the latest issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases , Christopher F. Lowe, of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada and Marc G. Romney, of St. Paul’s Hospital, Providence Health Care in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, say that the previously thought nuisance insects may actually be able to transmit drug-resistant bacteria.
What they found were some of bedbugs collected tested positive for Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), two very important antibiotic-resistant bacterium.
The patients in the study come from low-income urban areas of Vancouver where bedbug infestations are increasing.
Lowe and Romney conclude:
“Bedbugs carrying MRSA and/or VRE may have the potential to act as vectors for transmission. Further studies are needed to characterize the association between S. aureus and bedbugs. Bedbug carriage of MRSA, and the portal of entry provided through feeding, suggests a plausible potential mechanism for passive transmission of bacteria during a blood meal. Because of the insect’s ability to compromise the skin integrity of its host, and the propensity for S. aureus to invade damaged skin, bedbugs may serve to amplify MRSA infections in impoverished urban communities.”
Bedbugs are tiny parasitic insects, which feed on the blood of warm-blooded mammals. Typical adverse health effects from bedbug bites include skin rashes, allergic reactions and psychological effects.
In the United States, the bedbug was essentially eradicated since the 1940s but found resurgence at the end of the century. Though pesticides have historically been effective against bedbugs, resistance to many pesticides have developed. In addition to pesticides, non-pesticide methods have been used such as vacuuming and heat-treating.
May 12, 2011 9:05 am ET
Infectious Disease Examiner