Bedbugs Can Carry Superbugs

Bedbugs may carry superbug bacteria, according to Canadian researchers. It was long believed that <"">bedbugs only left their victims with uncomfortable rashes, but in light of this new finding, the pests appear to have the ability to spread infections, some antibiotic resistant.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers working with an economically depressed area in Vancouver in which both bedbug infestations and antibiotic resistant bacteria are on the rise, said Reuters. Dr. Marc Romney, a medical microbiologist at St. Paul’s Hospital/Providence Health Care in Vancouver, looked into a potential connection with the two increases, added Reuters.

For their study, Dr. Romney and his team removed five bedbugs from the clothing and skin of patients infested with the pests, said Reuters, which noted that tests on the bedbugs revealed that they carried two drug-resistant bacteria: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

“I was a little surprised. Historically, bedbugs have not been associated with infections,” Dr. Romney told Reuters in a telephone interview. Dr. Romney said that bedbugs were also tested to determine if they carried bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. They did not see those diseases in this research.

The MRSA strain found in the bedbugs tested need skin to be “compromised,” said Dr. Romney, noting that compromise occurs when bedbugs irritate skin and people scratch that skin, wrote Reuters. “Maybe the bedbug’s bite is breaking down the patient’s skin,” he said, quoted Reuters.

It is possible, said Dr. Romney, that bedbugs may be carrying MRSA and moving from one person to another and invading inflamed skin. “The data are preliminary, but it suggests maybe there is an association,” Romney said. “Even though they can’t carry hepatitis B and HIV, maybe they can carry resistant bacteria,” quoted Reuters.

Bedbugs have turned up at the Jersey City Municipal Court and Hudson County Plaza building in New Jersey; the administrative offices of the University of Wisconsin Health and Clinics; the New York City Ballet and New York City Opera; Nike Inc.’s flagship store, Victoria’s Secret, Hollister, Bloomingdale’s, and Abercrombie and Fitch; Sirius Radio and the Wall Street Journal; theatres; apartments and hospitals nationwide; the Empire State Building; Connecticut’s prominent Academy of Information Technology and Engineering; Aurora Sinai Medical; and the Waldorf Astoria.

The Waldorf Astoria has been hit with two lawsuits and a third report of complaints of bed bugs, and the resurgent pests have sparked a number of other lawsuits, including one against the owner of the Travelers Hotel LLC. More are expected.

We have long warned that antibiotic drug resistance implications are dangerous, deadly, and here. Reuters recently pointed out that the superbug MRSA kills about 19,000 people annually in the US; Science Daily puts the figure at 20,000 people annually; and, according to 2005 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures, nearly 19,000 people died in the U.S. from MRSA infections—94,000 were seriously sickened. CDC figures also state that some 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA occur annually in the US. According to Pfizer Inc., treating MRSA costs about $4 billion annually.

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