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.
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.
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