May 14, 2011 | by Christian Nordqvist | MNT, Medical News Today
Not only are there more bed bugs about in North America in Europe, but more of them appear to be carrying two types of superbugs – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) – bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and very hard to treat when there is an infection.
Staph infection caused by MRSA is extremely difficult to treat because it is resistant to most antibiotics, including oxacillin, peicillin, methicillin, amoxicillin, and even methicillin.
VRE bacteria are resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic. They are strains of the genus Enterococcus.
Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius (Cimicidae) are tiny wingless insects that feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. During their evolution they have become common nest parasites, infesting bird nests and bat roosts. Some bed bugs have learnt how to thrive in our nests, meaning our homes, and especially our beds. A baby bed bug is called a nymph and is about the size of a poppy seed. Adults reach about ¼ of an inch in length. They have an oval, flattened shape. Both adults and young are visible to the naked eye.
Bed bugs feed on us when we are asleep. As they feed we feel nothing, the process is painless. They inject a small amount of saliva into human skin while they feed. If they keep feeding on the same human night after night, that person can eventually develop a mild to intense allergic response to their saliva.
The study’s Canadian researchers wrote:
“Further studies are needed to characterize the association between S. aureus and bedbugs. Bed bug carriage of MRSA, and the portal of entry provided through feeding, suggests a plausible potential mechanism for passive transmission of bacteria during a blood meal. Because of the insect’s ability to compromise the skin integrity of its host, and the propensity for S. aureus to invade damaged skin, bed bugs may serve to amplify MRSA infections in impoverished urban communities.”
This latest report informs that the MRSA phenotype found in bed bugs is the same as those identified in many Eastside (Vancouver) patients infected with MRSA.
The scientists believe that the bed bugs probably promote the spread of MRSA in impoverished and overcrowded communities. The study took place in a poor part of Vancouver.
The researchers examined five bed bugs that had been taken from three patients staying at St. Paul’s Hospital – they all lived in Downtown Eastside, a poor part of Vancouver. In that part of Vancouver, MRSA infection incidence and cases of bed bugs had been rising steadily over the last few years. The scientists wanted to determine whether the two were linked.
They examined the bed bugs and found that three samples carried MRSA, while another two had VRE.
We still do not know whether the humans infected the bed bugs or the other way round. Further research is needed to determine where exactly on/in the bed bug the bacteria were – inside them or on their backs.
If bed bugs are able to carry and spread MRSA like the anopheles mosquito spreads malaria, we could be looking at a completely new vector of human disease.
Study author, Marc Romney, said:
“Even though this is a small study, it suggests that bedbugs may be playing a role in the transmission of MRSA in inner-city populations where bedbug infestations are a problem.”