Bedbug Bites May Transmit MRSA Super Germs
Photos via the Armed Forces Pest Management Board
Good night, sleep tight, don't let the Super-Germ-Carrying Bedbugs bite. That just destroys the rhyme, and could mess up your travel plans, too. Or at least keep you from sleeping well. A Canadian study has found that bedbugs can carry the dreaded MRSA, a bacteria resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Scary, but not the end of the world just yet, Harold Camping.
The study was small, involving five of the blood-feeding bugs from three St. Paul's Hospital patients in Vancouver. But it's been published in the June edition of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so it's more than just an interesting anecdote.
The paper, "Bedbugs as Vectors for Drug-Resistant Bacteria," is by C.F. Lowe of the University of Toronto and M.G. Romney from the University of British Columbia.
It reports on the recovery of MRSA and another drug-resistant bacteria known as VRE from bedbugs in an impoverished community in Vancouver.
Three patients from the area were hospitalized and found to be infested with bedbugs. Five of the bugs were collected and tested, according to the paper. For two patients, VRE was isolated from one bedbug each. For one other patient, MRSA was isolated from three bedbugs.
So far, the scientists report no conclusive evidence of demonstrated disease transmission by bedbugs. But the bugs are spreading in Vancouver, other parts of Canada and the U.S. And in impoverished areas like Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the findings are a concern. According to the peer-reviewed paper:
"Given the high prevalence of MRSA (particularly USA300) in hotels and rooming houses in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, bedbugs may become colonized with community-associated MRSA. Consequently, these insects may act as a hidden environmental reservoir for MRSA and may promote the spread of MRSA in impoverished and overcrowded communities."
More study is needed, Lowe and Romney say, but bedbugs carrying MRSA and/or VRE may have the potential to act as vectors for transmission.
That's the scientific term for how these findings may leave you.
But there are still more squirm-inducing factoids and tips, from the CDC:
Bedbugs infestations usually occur in places were people spend time, such as apartments, hotels, hospitals, cruise ships, buses and trains. (Let's hope this doesn't turn into a plot to cut funding for mass transit).
Bedbugs feed on human and animal blood, but can go several months without a meal. If you don't see them, they may be hiding, in the seams of your mattress and related bedding materials.
An adult male, partly engorged.
Getting sleepy yet? Oh, and bedbugs can hitch a ride on your luggage, too.
You may have bedbugs if you find bite marks on your face, neck, arms, hands --- you name it. You won't feel the bite, and it may take two weeks to appear, but you may find the exoskeletons of your new roommates. Yeesch.
So what can we do?
This post has gone on long enough to make you worry.
Well, part of comeback of bedbugs is due to increased international travel and an over-reliance on pesticides to battle other pests. Kind of reminds you of an over-reliance on antibiotics and those pesky drug-resistant bacteria.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies are working with industry and researchers to identify new compounds, or new uses of existing compounds, to control bedbugs.
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