Bed bug scares may seem so 2009-2010. But the reality is the pesky, nasty insects are still hanging around in abundance, and may now be carrying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the superbug that is resistant to most commonly used antibiotics.
Researchers in Vancouver say they took bed bugs (five of 'em) from three patients treated at St. Paul's Hospital. The scientists then crushed and analyzed the bugs and found three samples with MRSA. And the two other samples? Those carried vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, or VRE, a less dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Awesome.
Judging from how this story has been covered so far, I think we're all supposed to be panicking, believing that this is just another sign of the end of the world, and pretty soon, we're going to have an outbreak of MRSA thanks to scores of bed bugs ...
The truth: It doesn't seem like there's much, if any, reason to panic. Yet. See, this isn't exactly a rigorous study that drew any definitive conclusions. The strain of MRSA the scientists found was the same as the community-associated MRSA found in other residents who lived in the same poor neighborhood as the test subjects. So, the researchers don't know if these drug-resistant bugs (the MRSA, not the kind in your mattress) were transmitted from people to bed bugs, or vice-versa.
Also, no one knows if the bacteria existed on the bed bugs or in them. (Yeah, I guess that's what happens when you CRUSH UP the object you're testing.) In other words, we don't know MRSA was growing inside the bed bugs or just happened to be hanging out on top of them. Either way, we still don't know if the bed bugs are capable of carrying and transmitting MRSA the same way, say, a mosquito spreads malaria.
The only thing this teeny study actually shows is that bed bugs may be involved in the transmission of MRSA in inner city populations where bed bug infestations are a chronic issue. Although ... it's not really fair to limit the problem to inner city neighborhoods. Just look at what happened city- and nationwide last year!
On second thought, I'm not going to take my chances. I'm happy to be living in the 'burbs, where bed bug infestations -- and hey, maybe even related MRSA outbreaks -- aren't nearly as prevalent.
Are you freaked out by this news?
Image via cuttlefish/Flickr