Ebola? EBOLA?!? Or, What’s Wrong With America Today

by nobugsonme on September 21, 2007 · 8 comments

in bed bugs, entomologists

An item in FoxNews.com’s Science section today (yes, Virginia, there is a Fox Science section) explores the bed bug’s African cousin, the African bat bug (Afrocimex constrictus), “a close relative” of the bed bug.

The article describes research at the University of Sheffield (England), where Klaus Reinhardt and colleagues are studying the creatures.

Reinhardt and his colleagues investigated remote and dangerous bat caves in East Africa for the bloodsucking African bat bug (Afrocimex constrictus), a close relative of the bed bug. The bats were reportedly hosts for Ebola and other lethal viruses.

“We had to work in containment suits with full-faced respirators in sweltering temperatures for hours at end,” Reinhardt said.

What’s wrong with America today, as per this post’s subtitle, is that after dropping the E-bomb, the article goes on to obsess about how the male African bat bugs have a whole ‘nother set of genitalia–fake female parts, as it were.

Um, hello! Who cares?!? You just told me that a close relative of the bed bug is feeding on a mammal that carries the Ebola virus.

And just how, exactly, does this affect our current perceptions of the potential health dangers of the African bat bug’s close relative, Cimex Lectularius? The insect we’re told repeatedly does not transmit any known pathogens?

It does not bode well. Sure, they are not known to transmit pathogens now, but neither did North American mosquitoes a few years ago.

Yes, yes. I know that carrying a pathogen is not the same as spreading it. And I am the first one to say, “don’t panic.”

But I also lived in NYC when they started dropping planeloads of pesticide to kill mosquitoes with West Nile.

Listen, scientific research community, stop looking at insect nasty parts and do something to create some bed bug weapons of mass destruction, because I am seriously freaked out right now.

Thank You.

Oh, and yes, this sort of hysteria is exactly what I get for reading an article in Fox News online.

But the google alert spit it up, so what is a girl to do? Oh, and now can we be Best Health Blog? Please?

1 nyjammin September 21, 2007 at 2:49 pm

I clicked on the FoxNews.com Science Section above and to the right on that page is news in video form about “Bat Invasion, College freshman fights off bats at dorm”. So, does this mean that these freshman will soon get batbugs, bedbugs or whatever you wanna call these things that suck your blood for survivial while you are sleeping? We all know that there have been people on the forums who have had batbugs. According to one of the students interviewed at TSU, the bats were located in the ceiling. Now I know that just because there are bats, doesn’t mean that there are bugs w/them. But, the possibility does exist.

2 DougSummersMS September 21, 2007 at 9:11 pm

Bed bugs are also hosts for a long list of human diseases.

I am curious if the British researchers were wearing the suits and respirators because of possible Ebola transmission or due to other environmental hazards associated with the bats.

Bat droppings also are considered hazardous due to bacteria & mold. People that clean up dwellings after the bats are excluded typically wear suits with respirators.

It would be interesting to contact Dr. Reinhardt and ask if there is any evidence that bat bugs transmit the Ebola virus.

Doug Summers MS

3 thebedbugresource September 22, 2007 at 2:58 pm


I think that you may have confused what the article was saying. The bats carry Ebola, not the bugs.

Yes it is VERY possible for bed / bat /bird bugs to harbour pathogens but there is no evidence to suggest that they can transmit them from host to host.



4 nobugsonme September 23, 2007 at 3:11 am

In my opinion, anyone with a bat problem indoors (or frankly, with a bird, mouse, rat or other pest issue) should have the PCO inspect carefully for evidence of bed bugs/bird bugs/bat bugs in the vicinity of the other pest being eradicated.

Yes–it does sound like the bats biting the researchers in the cave were the real concern, at this time anyway. Still, though, would you like to be bitten by a bug that you knew bit bats with Ebola? (I wonder how this bat bug population is being fed, come to think of it. The usual lab method is that the bed bugs feed on the research team.)

Quite true. However, the incidence of blood-borne pathogens, and the ability to study their transmission, are much improved since bed bugs were mostly eradicated from the developed world in the late 1940s. And in the last decade, we saw mosquitoes become very dangerous –sometimes–in the US. The possibility of bed bugs (etc.) transmitting pathogens in future does seem to be there.

5 thebedbugresource September 23, 2007 at 11:09 am

Hello Nobugs,

I agree 100%. Just because it has not happened does not mean that it is impossible.

I am a scientist by nature and as such I know that living things adapt and evolve. We would be naive to think that bed bugs will never transmit disease.


6 vacationer September 24, 2007 at 3:29 am

I note that a fair percentage of people who contract some kinds of blood-borne diseases (such as hepatitis C, which usually produces no immediate symptoms to warn the victim that s/he is infected) are NEVER able to determine exactly how or when they got infected.

So, if in future someone were to contract a blood-borne disease from a bedbug, they (and we) might well never know. Transmission might have to occur quite a number of times before there is a situation so unambiguous that we would know it happened. Instances of previously unverified methods of getting hep C continue to appear in medical journals.

Death to bedbugs (why don’t THEY get sick?)!

7 nobugsonme September 24, 2007 at 10:35 am

Thanks vacationer.

Note to self: avoid African caves.

8 nobugsonme June 19, 2008 at 11:18 am

More on the fake female parts here.

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