Bed bugs can carry ultra-virulent MRSA bacteria

Apocalypse by fiery nuclear war, apocalypse by ancient Mayan prophecy, apocalypse by Buffy villain - we expected almost anything. But not apocalypse by bed bug.

There has been a rise in bed bug infestations of major cities over the last few years. People have been all abuzz about which major buildings have been shut down and who has been struck with the itchy little things. The bugs are tough to kill. The best way to get rid of them is to steam them or freeze them, and even then they often come back.

Recently, a Vancouver neighborhood saw a spike in bed bugs, MRSA, and another antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, VRE. Health care workers found bed bugs on three patients recently hospitalized with MRSA. They smushed the bugs, and analyzed the remains. Three of the bugs had MRSA and two had VRE. It's important to note that the bed bugs were found on infected people, and so they very well might have picked up MRSA from the humans, not given it to them. (If the bugs did pick it up, it's pretty much what they deserved.)

What's more, although MRSA is scary, it's surprisingly common. Five to ten percent of people in the US have a type of MRSA called community-associated MRSA, and it's not life-threatening unless it manages to make its way into the bloodstream. Mostly, it just causes rashes and boils on the skin. It's often transmitted during skin-to-skin sports activities.

However, the fact that bed bugs, a tough-to-eliminate species that are making life hell on home owners and hotel managers right now, can also pick up MRSA, is not good news. Health officials stress that more tests are needed before they can tell if bed bugs actually spread MRSA, or if they just pick up whatever the human they're currently tormenting has. Generally, frequent washing and keeping an area clean will prevent the spread of MRSA and wearing pajamas in hotel beds and keeping clothes away from carpeted surfaces can help prevent the spread of bed bugs.

Via Mayo Clinic Twice and Loyola University.