WASHINGTON — Could bloodsucking bedbugs get any creepier? Turns out, the answer is yes.
Bedbugs carrying potent drug-resistant staph bacteria have been found in a poor section of Vancouver, Canada, said a report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.
Five bedbugs were plucked off the bodies of three hospitalized patients from a rough section of downtown Vancouver where rates of poverty, HIV and injection drug use are high.
The bugs were tested and found to be infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), said the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases report.
It was unclear whether the people infected the bugs or the bugs infected the people.
“To our knowledge, no conclusive evidence has demonstrated disease transmission by bedbugs,” said the study, which called for further research due to the admittedly small sample of patients.
“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.”
In other words, contamination could theoretically happen if a person scratches where a bedbug has attached to the skin, causing an abrasion that allows the bacteria room for entry.
MRSA is a staph infection increasingly seen in hospitals that can turn deadly if it gets into the bloodstream or a surgical wound.
VRE is a type of bacteria that can live on the skin and in the intestines without harming a person, but can cause serious health issues in people who are ill or have weakened immune systems.
Both bacteria have developed resistance to many antibiotics.
As many as 31 percent of people living in that section of Vancouver, known as Downtown Eastside, have reported bedbug infestations, and both VRE and MSRA infections are commonly seen at the nearby Saint Paul’s Hospital, the report said.
A boom in bedbug populations has been witnessed across North America and western Europe over the past 10 years. Researchers believe the surge may be fueled by increasing world travel and growing resistance to pesticides.