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Superbug Germ Detected in Bedbugs, Study Finds

Bed Bug

Aug. 25, 2010: Bed bug is found in a mattress at the home of Delores Stewart, in Columbus, Ohio. A resurgence of bedbugs across the U.S. has homeowners and apartment dwellers taking desperate measures to eradicate the tenacious bloodsuckers, with some relying on dangerous outdoor pesticides and fly-by-night exterminators.AP

Scientists in Canada have found MRSA in bedbugs from three hospital patients who live in a poverty-stricken Vancouver neighborhood.

Although bedbugs are not known to spread disease – they do lead to scratching – which can cause the skin to tear and make people at risk for bacteria, said Dr. Marc Romney, an author on the study.

There’s no evidence of whether or not the bedbugs actually spread the MRSA bacteria or another less dangerous drug-resistant germ, but the study is “an intriguing finding” that needs to be looked at further, said Romney, a microbiologist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

The hospital is located near the poor downtown neighborhood where the three patients live, and when Romney and his colleagues saw a spike in both bedbugs and MRSA in the area, they decided to see if there was any correlation.

For the study, five bedbugs were crushed and analyzed. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, 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.

Both germs are often seen in hospitals, and experts have been far more worried about nurses and other health-care workers spreading the bacteria than insects.

It's not clear if the bacteria originated with the bedbugs or if the bugs picked it up from already infected people, Romney added.

“While the findings of this study are likely to raise concerns about bedbugs and bacterial transmission in impoverished communities, our primary concern for the public at large remains to be the psychological impact bedbugs have on those suffering from infestations,” said Jeffrey White, a research entomologist for Bedbug Central, a website dedicated to information concerning bedbug issues.

“We understand the anxiety this study’s findings may cause amongst the general public, however, the study only confirms what has long been suspected and more research needs to be conducted to understand the value of this information.”

The study was released Wednesday by Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.