Bed bugs harboring drug-resistant staph bacteria have been discovered on infested patients at a Vancouver hospital, alarming the medical community. In a study published last week in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) online journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, Canadian researchers reported finding antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria in bed bugs taken from three Vancouver hospital patients. Despite the small sampling, medical experts in both Canada and the U.S. have expressed concern that the discovery may herald a new and dangerous chapter in the human war against bed bugs.

Bed bugs are known to harbor 28 human pathogens in and on their bodies, including HIV and hepatitis B and C; however, to date, there has been no evidence that these blood-feeding parasites transmit disease to their human hosts. The discovery of bed bugs carrying MRSA and VRE, two virulent strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, has prompted the CDC to call for additional research into bed bugs’ disease-transmitting ability.

The most imminent medical threat the discovery appears to pose is to bed bug victims who develop secondary skin infections from scratching the intensely itchy bites of these small insects. Some bed bug researchers believe that the next bed bug-related health crisis will come from skin infections caused by intense scratching of bed bug bites. Some bed bug victims have developed impetigo, a contagious skin disease caused by staph or strep bacteria. Because MRSA is a staph infection, there is concern that bed bugs harboring MRSA could become a vehicle for its transmission. Highly contagious, MRSA can cause flesh-eating disease and organ failure. A problem in hospitals, MRSA has also been discovered in day care centers and school locker rooms.

While more research is needed to determine whether bed bugs pose a new health threat, immediately contacting a New Jersey bed bug expert at the first suspicion of bed bug activity will help protect your family.