Letter Re: Bedbugs as Disease Vectors

Hi, Jim:
Up until now, bedbugs were thought to be harmless from the point of view of carrying diseases. But all that has changed. See: Scientists Discover Bedbugs Carrying MRSA Germ In Study. Instead of [simply] being a pernicious hard to get rid of pest, they may be carrying anti-biotic resistant staph infections and illnesses now.

Some houses have such bad infestations of bedbugs there is no getting rid of them and impoverished people abandon those homes. In some cities, the houses are condemned as unfit for human habitation and destroyed.

Bed bugs are not found just in beds. Major businesses including theaters and news organizations have suffered from bedbugs. People have to be cautious using any public transportation as the last passenger may have dropped some off.

Almost completely eliminated once by DDT, the absence of a toxin to kill them has caused them to proliferate. If they are carrying MRSA and VRE in Canada, can the rest of the world be far behind?

As for MRSA, the staph infection has been spreading fast among commercial fisherman. It seems that having the hands and arms, wet during work hours, from the sea, particularly, has allowed MRSA to spread. Staph likes a warm, wet environment and commercial fisherman not only all have that condition, but also come in contact with one another’s hands and arms frequently, even sharing gloves and aprons and other surfaces that may become contaminated. Many other occupations require workers to have wet hands and arms doing while completing required tasks. Also, visitors on vacations to tropical environments have returned to their homes with MRSA infections. In warmer climates, MRSA lasts longer on surfaces, but now, in colder climates, bedbugs may carry the disease to the host directly.

In the worst cases, MRSA is known as the flesh eating bacteria, but that is usually found in hospitals. The MRSA found in other environments is usually slower spreading and antibiotics can still be used to stop the action. Still, those with compromised immune systems may find it not so easy to heal. Even healthy people exposed to the lesser strains may require hospitalization and IV treatments.

One thing you can do to help yourself is to keep your skin free of cuts, sores, bites, or scrapes, as entry points allow bacteria to get under the skin where the trouble is more serious, and more difficult to cure. You didn’t like bedbugs anyway, but to know they open a hole in your skin, and put bad bacteria in the hole, does nothing to increase your love of them.

It seems logical that bugs which open sores on the skin from biting also pick up and give back these antibiotic resistant strains. One has to be on alert for so much more in a world with widespread travel and insidious pests. – Gordon G.