With news reports of bed bugs increasing in numbers, the question of do they or don’t they carry disease continues to be of concern to many. Their resurgence has set off alarms regarding their potential public health risk. Adding to the confusion is the misconception many have based on inaccurate information.
An example of this was highlighted by professor entomologist, Michael Merchant of Texas AgriLife Research & Extension Center in Dallas, Texas. This past year a report was published on a study that suggested that bed bugs carry disease -- found in a letter to the editor of Emerging and Infectious Diseases, a periodical of the CDC. The letter focused on whether or not the bed bugs brought in on three hospitalized patients carried disease.
The letter stated that the bed bugs tested positive for two strands of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, Enterococcus Faecium (VRE) and Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Researchers suggested that the bed bugs may have picked up the bacteria from the low-income community the patients were from since the two bacteria were prevalent there. They hypothesized that the bed bugs in this community may be acting as a hidden environmental reservoir for MRSA and maybe contributing to the spread of the disease in these poor and over crowded communities.
The issue with this report according to professor Merchant was an example of “quick and dirty” research. He states that it only provides information that should be the basis of further research and study. Due to the lack of extensive tests and study the conclusions may be misleading. The scientific standards used to establish proof that would lead to a definitive conclusion that an insect is in fact a carrier of disease was not met with this study. Its authors would be the first to agree.
This stresses on pest management professionals the need to keep themselves abreast of the latest information on the on-going research regarding the war against this blood sucking critter. Catseye has found that the best source of reliable information can be found from the National Pest Management Association as well as various extensions across the country.
So, the answer to the question of do they or don’t they is simply no. The evidence that bed bugs carry a number of pathogens is well known. However, there’s no evidence of them transmitting disease.
If you think you have a bed bug infestation, schedule a free bed bug inspection!