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Itching And Scratching
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The Bedbug Problem Intensifies

By James Donahue

Bad enough that bedbugs are on the march, spreading from town to township, from hotels and motels to clothing stores and people’s homes everywhere. Now researchers are discovering that these tiny, biting insects have become resistant to pesticides and are found to be carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In other words, it is getting harder than ever to kill them, but they now have the potential for killing us.

While bedbugs have remained a nuisance among mostly the poverty stricken people of the world for as long as anybody can remember, researcher Marc Romney at St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, finds that bedbugs from three patients carried the antibiotic-resistant bacteria Enterococcus faetium, or VRE.

Bedbugs collected from yet another patient tested positive for the superbug MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This particular strain was USA300, a virulent strain associated with skin infections that has been found on cell phones, money and mostly in hospitals where they are transmitted through contact between health professionals and patients.

Thus Romney’s report is sounding an alarm that the elusive bedbug now is beginning to carry deadly new and untreatable bacterium strains through bites from one human to another.

Romney notes in his report, published in the May 11 edition of Center for Disease Control journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, is inconclusive because the superbugs were found on bedbugs taken from a few patients in a single hospital in Vancouver. The report, however, calls for more study to determine just how serious this potential threat has become.

LiveScience quoted Richard Oehler, a researcher at University of South Florida, who expressed concern that if bedbugs can acquire human pathogens then other biting insects like fleas and tucks may also have this potential.

Oehler noted that the Vancouver case may be the first “study to find that a bedbug can harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” In the Vancouver case, the patients came from impoverished and low-hygiene neighborhoods where bedbugs and bacterial infections would lurk.

At least that used to be the case. But in recent years the scourge of the bedbug has been spreading even to the finer homes, high priced clothing stores and other locations. This is because people have been traveling and carrying the tiny little pests home with them in their suitcases.

Hotels and motels are great places for bedbugs to hop from host to host, hiding out in the rooms between visitors. And this new breed of bedbug has been found to also be pesticide-resistant, making it next to impossible to get rid of them once a building has been invaded.

"Every time we move on, there is a chance we are taking a few bedbugs with us," said Clive Boase, a spokesperson for the Pest Management Consultancy, Haverhill, England.


Other cause: the increased sales of second-hand furniture where the bugs may be hiding. This stuff is passed from garage sales to second hand stores and antique stores, then back into peoples private homes. Antique furniture collectors may be especially vulnerable, especially if they take home chairs or furnishings with fabric.


Bedbugs take more blood in a single feed than any other insect. They also are known to carry the various strains of Hepatitis, AIDS and a variety of other blood-borne diseases. They also can cause allergic reactions and anemia.


It is believed that a single pregnant female bedbug can produce of a colony of several thousand within a year. Infestations can spread through a home within weeks. When deprived of blood, the bugs are known to survive for more than a year. This is why they can successfully ride around on stored furniture or hang around in empty homes for months until new tenants move in.


Bedbugs are rarely seen. They scamper during the light of day, hiding in seams of mattresses, under headboards, curtains or carpeting. When the lights go off, they come out in search of food. 


So sleep tight all . . . and don't let those bedbugs bite.