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Antibiotic Resistant Strains of Bacteria Found in Bed Bugs

Most people realize that bed bugs can harbor bacteria. In fact, bed bugs can harbor over thirty types of human pathogens, disease causing microbes. There is no evidence that bed bugs can transmit any disease, however.

Recently, bed bugs found in Vancouver, British Columbia, were found to contain two strains of bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics. While this situation was more of an observation than a study, it does raise questions about whether bed bugs are more closely related to disease transmission than previously thought. It also raises the concern that bed bugs in hospitals might lead to life threatening untreatable diseases in patients in the hospital.

To be clear, it is not known whether the staph microbes found in the bed bugs were from humans or if they were picked up elsewhere. Also, there were no indications that the staph came from the hospital and not brought in on personal belongings.

Microbial strains resistant to antibiotics found in bed bugs in the study include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA and the less dangerous vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium or VRE. The infections can be spread by open sores, something that can occur with excessive scratching of bed bug welts. This increases chances of a link between bed bugs and infection.

While the study merely identified these hearty strains of microbes in just several bed bugs, it does raise the question as to whether bed bugs have more of a role in disease transmission than previously thought. Even if the bed bug does not spread disease directly, harboring such dangerous pathogens could increase the chances of spreading. In a hospital, this is more of a concern as there are immune-compromised patients as well as those that are least suited to fight infection.

More work is necessary to fully understand the implications of this observation, but as always, people should take care to reduce chances of being exposed to bed bugs.