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Bedbugs May Transmit Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Impoverished communities likely most at risk, researchers warn

WEDNESDAY, May 11, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Bedbugs carrying two types of drug-resistant bacteria have been found by Canadian researchers, an alarming discovery in light of the resurgence of bedbugs in North America and Western Europe over the past 10 years.

The researchers tested five bedbugs collected from three hospital patients from an area of Vancouver, British Columbia known as Downtown Eastside, which has high rates of poverty, homelessness, HIV/AIDS and injection drug use.

The bedbugs were found to be carrying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE).

The report appears in the June issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Like many cities worldwide, Vancouver has experienced a major increase in bedbugs, especially in Downtown Eastside, where nearly a third of the residents report infestations. The phenotype of the MRSA found in the bedbugs is identical to that found in tests of many Eastside patients with MRSA infections (also a substantial problem in the community), according to the report.

These findings suggest that bedbugs may act as a "hidden environmental reservoir" that promotes the spread of MRSA in overcrowded and impoverished communities, the researchers said in a CDC news release.

"Further studies are needed to characterize the association between S. aureus and bedbugs. Bedbug 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," the researchers wrote.

"Because of the insect's ability to compromise the skin integrity of its host, and the propensity for S. aureus to invade damaged skin, bedbugs may serve to amplify MRSA infections in impoverished urban communities," they noted.

Bedbugs might also help transmit VRE, the researchers added.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more about bedbugs.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, May 11, 2011
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