There has been a major increase in bed bug incidence in North America and Europe in recent years and aside from being an extreme nuisance and the destroyer of property and sanity of many lives, now bed bugs carrying two types of drug-resistant bacteria have been found by Canadian researchers.
The bed bugs were found to be carrying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE).
MRSA is a Staph infection that resists many antibiotics which makes it a very difficult disease to deal with. Some common antibiotics that MRSA resists but are used in treating other ailments include oxacillin, peicillin, methicillin, and amoxicillin).
VRE are bacterial strains of the genus Enterococcus that are resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin. To become VRE, vancomycin-sensitive enterococci typically obtain new DNA in the form of plasmids or transposons which encode genes that confer vancomycin resistance. This acquired vancomycin resistance is distinguished from the lower-level, natural vancomycin resistance of certain enterococcal species including E. gallinarum and E. casseliflavus.
Bed bugs are small, oval, non-flying insects that belong to the insect family Cimicidae, which includes three species that bite people. Adult bed bugs reach 5-7 mm in length, while nymphs (juveniles) are as small as 1.5 mm.
The study’s researchers stated:
“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.”
The phenotype of the MRSA found in the bed bugs is identical to that found in tests of many Eastside patients with MRSA infections according to the report.
These findings suggest that bed bugs may act as a “hidden environmental reservoir” that promotes the spread of MRSA in overcrowded and impoverished communities.
According to a report from August 2010 by NPR:
“At first, they appeared in places that you might expect: dense city centers such as New York, where officials may seek a bed bug czar, and San Francisco, which is trying landlord-education programs to keep the pests away. But now, there are reports of bedbug infestations in homes and hotels from Ohio to Texas.”
The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is the species best adapted to human environments. It is found in temperate climates throughout the world. Other species include Cimex hemipterus, found in tropical regions, which also infests poultry and bats, and Leptocimex boueti, found in the tropics of West Africa and South America, which infests bats and humans. Cimex pilosellus and Cimex pipistrella primarily infest bats, while Haematosiphon inodora, a species of North America, primarily infests poultry.
Bed bugs are developing resistance to various pesticides including DDT and organophosphates.
Some populations have developed a resistance to pyrethroid insecticides. Although now often ineffective, the resistance to pyrethroid allows for new chemicals that work in different ways to be investigated, so chemical management can continue to be one part in the resolving of bed bug infestations. There is growing interest in both synthetic pyrethroid and the pyrrole insecticide, chlorfenapyr. Insect growth regulators, such as hydroprene (Gentrol), are also sometimes used.
Written by Sy Kraft