dialysis machine with bed in hospital background
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Bedbugs could be a culprit in spreading methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, which can be common in some assisted living and nursing home communities. A study in The Journal of Infectious Diseases indicates that the bugs may be able to get — and spread — the infection.  

A team from the University of South Dakota created an experimental design that used a collagen membrane contaminated with MRSA to mimic the process of a bedbug feeding on blood through a mock host that had MRSA. 

They did three trials to see how the bugs could feed. Each trial included 30 bedbugs who were allowed to feed on sterile blood through a membrane. They then analyzed the bugs to see how much viable MRSA was on and in their bodies for seven days.

All of the bedbugs got MRSA on and in their bodies. The infection was still intact on the bedbug surface for up to three days after the bugs were there in two of the three trials; and it stayed for up to seven days in the other trial. MRSA stayed in their blood for up to three days after feeding in all three trials, and up to seven days in one of three trials.

“These results do not prove that bedbugs are relevant vectors of MRSA in nature,” the authors wrote. “However, when considered together [with] the detection of MRSA in field-collected bedbugs and clinical reports associating bedbugs with Staphylococcus infections, they provide support for the hypothesis that bed bugs may contribute to the transmission of MRSA in some settings.”

The authors also say their report is the first experimental support for the hypothesis that bedbugs can play a role in transmitting MRSA. The news comes as a report states that MRSA infections increased in United States health settings since the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the reports they cited featured 182 Hospital Corporation of America hospitals. It said people with COVID-19 had a threefold increase in MRSA infections compared to those who didn’t have the virus.