Don’t let the
bed bugs bite…
Canadian researchers announced in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases that three hospitalized patients from a neighborhood in Vancouver, were infested with bed bugs that proved to carry drug-resistant bacteria. Specifically, the bacteria were vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), which often causes serious hospital-acquired infections, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), staph organisms that can trigger lethal infections in people with weakened immune systems.
A beg bug nymph taking a blood meal from human skin.
This finding is significant in that bed bugs have not been previously known to carry infectious diseases.
The researchers saw a spike in both bedbugs and MRSA in the area, prompting them to see if there was any correlation.
For the study, five bedbugs were crushed and analyzed. MRSA, was found on three bugs. MRSA is resistant to several types of common antibiotics and can become deadly if it gets through the skin and into the bloodstream.
Two bugs had VRE, or vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus Faecium, a less dangerous form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
But to make matters worse locally, a recent survey by a national pest-control company has found that Chicago is the fifth-most bed-bug-infested city in the United States.
“It’s an intriguing finding, especially since we’re having an epidemic of bed bugs and an epidemic of multidrug-resistant organisms such as MRSA and VRE,” said Dr. Jorge Parada, director of the infection prevention program at Loyola University Health System (LUHS). “But what remains to be proven is that bed bugs actually are implicated in the transmission of MRSA or VRE.”
Most MRSA infections occur in hospitals and in other health-care settings but the number of community-associated cases has risen dramatically in the United States over the past decade. Currently, between 5 to 10 percent of people are infected with MRSA, and it is not known when that number will plateau. Some of the infections can be life-threatening.
Bed bugs are small, brownish, flattened insects that feed solely on the blood of animals. The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius , is the species most adapted to living with humans. It has done so since ancient times. Bed bugs are mentioned in medieval European texts and in classical Greek writings back to the time of Aristotle.
Adult bed bugs are about 3/16-inch long and reddish-brown, with oval, flattened bodies. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks or cockroaches.
Bed bugs do not fly, but can move rapidly over floors, walls, ceilings and other surfaces. Female bed bugs lay their eggs in secluded areas, depositing 1, 2 or more eggs per day and hundreds during a lifetime. The eggs are tiny, whitish, and hard to see on most surfaces without magnification (individual eggs are about the size of a dust speck). When first laid, the eggs are sticky, causing them to adhere to surfaces.
Bed bugs clinging to a mattress.
Newly hatched nymphs are straw-colored and no bigger than a pinhead. As they grow, they molt (shed their skin) five times before reaching maturity. A blood meal is needed between each successive molt. Under favorable conditions (70-80°F), the bugs can complete development in as little as a month, producing three or more generations per year. Cooler temperatures or limited access to blood extends the development time.
Bed bugs are resilient. Nymphs can survive months without feeding and the adults for more than a year.
Infestations therefore are unlikely to diminish by leaving premises unoccupied. Although C. lectularius prefers feeding on humans, it will also bite other warm-blooded animals, including dogs, cats, birds and rodents.
Infestations are very difficult to control. In fact, traditional pest control companies that claim to use bed bug extermination methods fail four out of five times.
According to the New York Sun, pest control companies have reported an increase from twelve bed bug cases per month five years ago to 600-700 per week today.
Hardy Diagnostics’ new chromogenic HardyCHROM MRSA represents another effective tool to be used in the battle against MRSA.