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Bed Bugs and MRSA – Do Bed Bugs Transmit Disease?

Bed Bugs and MRSA – Do Bed Bugs Transmit Disease?

Photo Credit:  Janice Haney Carr

Although the relationship between Bed Bugs and MRSA is still unclear, it has been widely believed – and for some time – that bed bugs do not transmit or spread disease among its victims. In addition, it has also been reported that bed bugs are carriers of numerous agents of human disease. And at this time, this would include an array of viruses, protozoa and other associated bacteria. However, there is no evidence within the medical community to suggest that bed bugs are transmitters of these pathogens through a bed bug bite.

Furthermore, it has yet to be proven as to whether bed bugs are biologically capable of commuting infectious diseases through biological transmissions.  Good examples would include malaria and Lyme disease, which are transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes and ticks. Also noted would be transmissible blood-borne pathogens such as the HIV and the hepatitis B and C virus.  While this parasite is indeed a carrier of at least 27 reported agents of human disease, none of these pathogens reproduce and multiply within the bed bug or survive for any significant length of time.  The lineage between bed bugs and MRSA is still unclear as further research continues and is fluid at this time.

Can Bed Bugs Transmit MRSA and VRE?

This past May (2011), medical researcher’s in Vancouver conducted a relatively small but important study on a Bed Bugs and MRSA and the ability to transmit MRSA and VRE through their bite on unsuspecting victims. The examination and subsequent study was conducted on three residents of Vancouver’s Downtown East-side that had recently been hospitalized and also found to be infested with bed bugs. The Downtown East-side community is a poverty-stricken neighborhood that has been plagued with high rates of vagrancy, HIV/AIDS and injection drug usage. According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention and its report on bed bugs and MRSA as vectors for drug-resistant bacteria, 31% of this neighborhood’s residents have reported a bed bug infestation in their community.

Please enjoy this short video for more on Bed Bugs and MRSA


What is the correlation between Bed Bugs and MRSA?

Canadian researcher’s initiated their study in hopes to learn as to whether there was a connection between a bed bug bite to its bite victims and the spread of MRSA. Canadian researchers have reported that three of the five bed bugs removed from the patients were carriers of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the potentially deadly super-bug known as MRSA. This particular strain of MRSA  and the relationship between bed bugs and MRSA was consistent with the community-associated strain found on other residents within the same neighborhood. Other examples of community-associated strains of MRSA can be more commonly found in locker rooms of athletes and among the communities of prison in-mates.

In addition, researcher’s noted the presence of vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE), also an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, on two of the bed bugs removed from the patients. According to the CDC, it is speculated that the study and its findings could result from the unsanitary and close-quartered living conditions shared by those living in the Downtown East-side and its interconnectedness to St. Paul’s Hospital, where it is reported that a large number of patients with the VRE infection, reside.

What is MRSA? 

The first contagion noted in the study, MRSA, is resistant to several types of antibiotics to include penicillin and amoxicillin. MRSA can be fatal when entering through an open skin wound and into the bloodstream and left untreated. While most MRSA infections within the community are notably skin infections, the more severe and deadly strains normally occur within health-care settings.  MRSA infections are spread like all staph.  This can normally occur through contact with others and their skin infections or shared usage of personal items such as wash towels and razors.  Close-quartered living conditions and poor hygiene are high risk factors that can lead to one acquiring a MRSA infection.

What is VRE?

The second contagion, VRE, also found to be present on two of the bed bug samples in this particular study, is a bacteria that normally occupies the human intestines and/or can be found present in the female genital tract. This bacteria can sometimes cause infections in the urinary tract and blood stream and is not normally aggressive among healthy people. This bacteria can however, be problematic during surgical procedures and in most cases, will be treated successfully with antibiotics.  The VRE infection is also normally associated with hospitals and other health-care settings where surgical procedures take place.  It is often spread by the hands of care-givers who may have come in close contact with someone who has the virus or from a contaminated surface on which the virus was present.

Are Bed Bugs an active Vector for MRSA?

At this time, it is unclear as to whether the MRSA and VRE bacteria were on the bed bug or inside the bed bug. The underlying health risk is the infections that can be spread due to a bed bug bite and the very close quarters than the impoverished often share where MRSA is present. While many people may carry MRSA on their bodies and are not otherwise infected, it is possible for the MRSA to be introduced to the bed bug bite wound due to the itching and scratching associated with the bite itself and ultimately leading to a much more serious illness. When MRSA has been introduced to a bed bug bite wound and the individual is not in good health or suffering from an autoimmune disease, this combination can be deadly.  Continued studies into Bed Bugs and MRSA are needed to reach a definitive conclusion as to whether bed bugs are capable of transmitting disease.

For many people, a bed bug bite may cause no allergic reaction at all and may even go completely unnoticed for days or weeks, if at all. Others may experience a severe reaction and in some rare instances, experience symptoms of anaphylactic shock. And for others still, a bed bug bite will lead to secondary infections of the skin such as Ecthyma, impetigo and lymphangitis, when left untreated. For more on bed bug bites, rash and bed bug bite symptoms, please view Bed Bug Bites Treatment and Skin Treatment.

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