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Health Care / HEALTH CARE

Bedbugs May Transmit Superbugs, Study Shows

May 11, 2011

Bedbugs can carry drug-resistant “superbugs” and might possibly spread them from person to person, Canadian scientists reported on Wednesday.

Three people from an impoverished section of Vancouver were found to be infested with bedbugs carrying drug-resistant infections, the researchers said.

Bedbugs are becoming more common in big cities around the world. No one knows precisely why, and while they are annoying, most doctors have agreed they are harmless to health. But maybe not, Dr. Marc Romney of St. Paul's Hospital/Providence Health Care in Vancouver and colleagues report.

 

They took bedbugs off three patients and found the insects infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA, and vancomycin-resistant enterococci or VRE. Both are difficult-to-treat infections that are costing health care systems millions.

“Similar to other cities worldwide, Vancouver has seen an alarming increase in bedbugs, particularly in Downtown Eastside, where 31 percent of residents have reported bedbug infestation,” Romney’s team wrote in the latest issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bedbugs have been tested many times and although they eat human blood, like mosquitoes, and move from person to person, they have never been shown to spread infections as mosquitoes spread malaria, dengue, and other diseases.

But it is possible, Romney and colleagues said.

“Consequently, these insects may act as a hidden environmental reservoir for MRSA and may promote the spread of MRSA in impoverished and overcrowded communities,” they wrote. More than half the patients seen in the emergency room at St. Paul's Hospital carried MRSA.

“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,” they concluded.

 



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