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Bed Bug Epidemic May Lead to “Superbug” Epidemic

Bed Bug Epidemic May Lead to “Superbug” Epidemic

If recent news of the growing international bed bug epidemic (PDF) hasn’t been enough to give you pause for concern (as well as creepy-crawlies), the latest evidence from a new study in Canada might.  Researchers in Vancouver have found that these pests are in some cases also carrying drug-resistant bacteria, and may be infecting their human hosts with such superbugs as MRSA and VRE.

From Reuters:

Researchers in Canada have found bedbugs carrying antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a surprise finding because scientists had thought the pests were not capable of spreading infections. The study was done by a team in a poor corner of Vancouver, where both bedbug infestations and strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria are increasing.

A rapid rise in both international travel and commercial shipping over the last decade is believed to be partly responsible for bed bug infection epidemics in the U.S. and large cities abroad. While bed bug infection symptoms of itching and skin inflammation are relatively minor, bed bugs are parasites which suck the blood of their host, which leads to the risk of exposure to blood-borne illnesses. 

In the case of MRSA and VRE (which the bed bugs in the Vancouver study were found to be carrying), human infection can be serious and in some cases lead to death.  These bacteria are resistant to known antibiotics, and require aggressive medical treatment. While the initial symptoms of these infections can seem similar to minor skin irritations or rashes, dangerously high fevers and septic shock are possible if the condition is not detected or treated.

The study revealed the group most at risk for both bed bug and drug-resistant bacterial infection were the poor and the homeless in a particularly impoverished part of the Vancouver.  Concern for the coincidental rise in bed bug infestations along with a higher frequency of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among the low-income population of Vancouver led to this further study.

According to a joint statement released Wednesday by both the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the EPA, further study is warranted.

Related Stories:

The End of Antibiotics?

They Want to Suck Your Blood: Not Vampires, but Bed Bugs

Are We Losing The Battle With Drug-Resistant Bacteria?

 

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

(CDC image in the public domain, no copyright restriction)


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61 comments

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3:38PM PDT on Jul 6, 2011

There are two solutions to the Bed Bug population explosion: DDT and Diazinon. Since these have been banned from use the Bed Bugs have been in the increase. Now that they are carrying a deadly bacteria maybe the Health Department and Government will consider a limited and restricted use of these two chemicals to get the Bed Bugs under control and close to eradication as they were while these two chemicals were in use. If these chemicals are not authorized to be used we will all get bitten eventually by Bed Bugs with the possibility of being infected with a bacteria that will kill us anyway. I would rather get rid of the Bed Bugs myself. These two chemicals sprayed inside dwellings would not pose a threat to wild life or birds and fish. The possibility of humans being affected is minimal. I have been exposed to both of these chemicals over the years since I was a child. So far at age 62 I don't have any diseases or illnesses related to exposure to them.

1:56AM PDT on May 20, 2011

yaaaaaahhhhhhhhh

9:47PM PDT on May 18, 2011

wow

7:32AM PDT on May 17, 2011

sleep tight and
dont let the bedbugs bite...

3:42PM PDT on May 16, 2011

Angela, thank you for this article. It answered some questions I had about their bites.

I have been fighting these little beasts for weeks. They are very difficult to eradicate. Last night I got to the point where I started sleeping with the light on. Before I took some of the measures I did, I was so itchy I felt like I wanted to rip my skin off. Although one of the sources I looked up said that the bugs don't bite where there is hair, I found that to be untrue. Most of the bites I have are on my head. With all the things that I've done over the years, like pick up furniture and mattresses off the street, I never once got bedbugs. Maybe I was just fortunate, but not so anymore. I found these bugs breeding on the back of some fans I had and threw them all out. If you get them, be prepared for a long fight. They don't go easily.

10:20AM PDT on May 16, 2011

We have done research and had positive and dramatic results with the treatment of MRSA and other resistant bacteria.
We have found that the bacteria is a fungus mutated organism!!
Treat the wounds and internal systems with anti-fungal, antibacterial, and immune building methods.
We prefer to use a Naturopathic approach rather than risk the further damage caused by harsh pharmaceutical chemicals.

9:57AM PDT on May 16, 2011

Unfortunately, cleanliness at home is not a cure all. If you ride public transportation (I ride the Metro) or stay in any hotel/motel travelling on business or pleasure (me again), if you donate time at shelters (sometimes me), etc. - you can be the victim of these hitch hikers! Be aware and do what you can, but don't assume it's a personal hygene problem. I have not had the misfortune to have to deal with these nasty critters, but there is no way to "proof" yourself against them if you don't live in a bubble!

2:10AM PDT on May 16, 2011

Bedbugs are scary

5:08PM PDT on May 15, 2011

Very scary!

12:35PM PDT on May 15, 2011

Don't be naive. Five star hotels have had infestations which of course they want to keep under wraps. Bedbugs are hitch-hickers and one bug can give birth to 1000s of babies resulting in infestation. Meticulous cleanliness is of course part of the answer and to check your luggage, advisable to dispose of fabric luggage and invest in hard poly luggage etc. In winter I put all my travel gear and contents out on my cold Alberta deck for 2 weeks upon returning home just to assuage my paranoia upon returning from exotic holidays. Prevention is always better than cure. Check check check and don't trust 5 star hotels either. Trust yourself and your efforts otherwise you become the victim of commercial Pest eradicators that also don't guarantee and if they do they don't honor the guarantee unless taken to court. The world is not so simple as just to do your housework well and looking down your nose at other victims. I've had the scare but not the problem. Know some that did and they were an exceptionally modern, clean, well organized family. 'Lest yeh be judged.' ' Lest yeh be victimizied.'

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