Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Do Bedbugs Spread Diseases?

Bedbugs are in the news a lot these days. Bedbugs are on the rise; there’s an epidemic. Bedbugs have become resistant to the chemicals we’ve been using for years to kill them. The bugs are in used furniture, on airplanes, and they’re adept at spreading from one apartment to another by traveling along plumbing pipes. Some envision a world where we lose control altogether and everyone has bedbugs, like we all have the occasional spider now.

There’s a difference of course. Bedbugs don’t just live in our houses and they can’t be swept away. They live in our beds. They feed on our blood. The one saving grace has always been that they don’t transmit disease. They ingest blood pathogens when they feed, but no one has ever been able to demonstrate that they are capable of passing any of them on. Until now.

Apparently researchers in Vancouver investigated whether bedbugs could be responsible for the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and found evidence that they could. They found bedbugs carrying antibiotic resistant bacteria, and suggested that because bedbug bites cause a break in the skin, not to mention subsequent scratching, they might provide an opportunity for these bacteria to colonize and cause infections.

As far as I can tell, it’s not proven yet, but the possibility that bedbugs might be spreading these agents looks stronger than ever before.

Lowe, Christopher F., and Marc G. Romney. "Bedbugs as Vectors for Drug Resistant Bacteria." Letter. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2011 17:6.

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