[This post refers to a Crain’s New York story which we now know contains inaccurate quotes. Please see corrections in the Update below.]
scary not quite as scary as the article implies: Cornell entomologist Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann believes that there’s notes there may be a link between patients experiencing bed bug bites in a hospital, and coming down with MRSA.
Crain’s New York reports (free registration required):
Cornell University scientist Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an entomologist who specializes in the study of bedbugs, says she is convinced there is a link between patients getting bitten by bedbugs and coming down with these dangerous and even lethal infections.Though called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the strain also resists penicillin and several other popular antibiotics.
“What we are starting to see is that hospitals just cannot get rid of MRSA until they get rid of bedbugs,” said Ms. Gangloff-Kaufmann, who has a PhD in the study of insects. It’s not that bedbugs harbor staph in their blood and transmit it by biting, the way mosquitoes do with viruses, she says. Rather, bedbug bites can create hiding places where MRSA can take hold.
That scenario makes sense to Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center—at least in theory. “It’s just common sense. But I’d like to see a study,” he said. Though Mr. Tierno says his own hospital has no bedbugs, he has studied their habits.
It’s really important to reiterate that while bed bugs certainly do cause health problems, they are not known to transmit any viruses. The key here is that bed bug bites may make patients vulnerable to infection by the MRSA virus present in the environment.
(And, by the way, it’s pretty hard to say one’s hospital is entirely bed bug-free, since any patient, visitor, employee or delivery can carry them in at any moment.)
The article also cites Dr. Belinda Ostrowsky, director of Montefiore Medical Center’s antimicrobial stewardship program, who said “Theoretically, any breaks in the skin could lead to an infection,” but noted the lack of studies or known cases.
I really hope that Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann gets funded to do such a study, as it would potentially help hospitals save a lot of lives. With knowledge comes power.
(Thanks to mangycur for the tip!)
Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann commented below,
For the record!!!!….I do not firmly believe this, as the reporter suggests. I only speculate about it because I think the opportunity exists, but we do not know for sure. I didn’t make the statement that claims that hospitals can’t get rid of MRSA because they can’t get rid of bed bugs. I don’t have that information and I don’t deal with hospitals.
Thank you, Dr. Gangloff-Kaufmann, for the correction.
This is a good example of a media outlet (in this case Crain’s) misrepresenting their sources in order to create a more sensational story.
My apologies for helping spread it further.