Awfulness squared: Bedbugs and MRSA team up to plague humans

Kim LaCapria - Author

Jun. 15 2013, Updated 11:40 p.m. ET

You know what’s worse than bedbugs or MRSA? Bedbugs with MRSA.

Both are persistent scourges that once acquired, are near impossible to eradicate. Both are fairly terrifying, and make life a lot less pleasant for the afflicted. And now they’ve joined creepy, stigma-inducing forces to terrorize humanity. If you’ve been lucky enough to not be aware of either, bedbugs are an increasingly common nuisance in densely populated areas, making their way into apartments via neighbors, infested clothing or rescued furniture. MRSA is methicillin resistant staph, and it is, as the name suggests, a bacterium that isn’t very susceptible to antibiotic treatment.

Canadian researchers recently analyzed some bedbugs found on patients in an urban hospital, making the horrifying discovery:

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The scientists studied five bed bugs, taken from three patients treated at St. Paul’s Hospital. All three patients were residents of Vancouver’s poor Downtown Eastside, where both bed bugs and MRSA have been on the rise in recent years. The researchers wanted to see if there was a connection.

So they crushed and analyzed the bugs and found three samples with MRSA, the superbug that is resistant to most commonly used antibiotics. The two other samples had vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, or VRE, a less dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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What researchers don’t yet know is whether the MRSA is in or on the creatures. But even if the MRSA is just on them, it can pose transmission risks. The study indicates that the presence of MRSA in or on bedbugs could be hastening the spread of the scary bacteria. 19,000 American deaths each year are due to MRSA.


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