WASHINGTON, D.C. – After Vancouver-based researchers discovered several instances of bed bugs infected with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as well as vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) this week asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the public health implications and develop an action plan to prevent a public health epidemic in the United States if bed bugs are in fact capable of transmitting disease to humans. Research conducted in Detroit, Michigan, also found MRSA in supermarket meat.
There have been widespread reports in Ohio this year of bed bug infestations, with the City of Canton’s environmental health director describing one local home as having the worst infestation he has ever seen.
“Until now, we thought bed bugs were simply a nuisance—not a means of transmitting disease,” Brown said. “If, in fact, bed bugs can transmit MRSA and other harmful infections to humans, the CDC needs to outline an action plan immediately to help stem a health threat. Given the increasing prevalence of bed bug infestations in homes and public facilities alike, the American public needs assurance now that these bugs will not lead to a widespread outbreak of potentially fatal infections like MRSA.”
Earlier this year—after several cases of MRSA were reported in Ohio—Brown announced plans to reintroduce legislation addressing “superbugs” like MRSA. In the 110th Congress, Brown introduced the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act, legislation that would address antimicrobial resistance, with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The STAAR Act would strengthen federal antimicrobial resistance surveillance, prevention and control, and research efforts, as well as enhances the collection of critical information on the use of antibiotics in humans and animals. It also would establish an Office of Antimicrobial Resistance (OAR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to coordinate the activities of agencies involved in drug resistance.
The full text of the letter is below.
May 12, 2011
Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30333
Dear Director Frieden:
I am writing to urge you to review two new reports regarding methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A study conducted by Canadian scientists found MSRA in a small sample of bed bugs, while research conducted in Detroit, Michigan, found MRSA in supermarket meat. Both were published Wednesday by your publication, Emerging Infectious Diseases.
MRSA infections can be acquired in community and medical settings and are exacerbated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As you are aware, antibiotics resistance is on the rise – creating more antibiotic-resistant pathogens. According to a recent study, more than 94,000 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the United States in 2005 and more than 18,500 of these infections resulted in death.
While bed bugs are currently a nuisance, they have not carried the same public health concerns associated with other pests, such as ticks or mosquitoes. Researchers in Vancouver, Canada recently found MRSA and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) in bed bugs taken from patients at a Vancouver hospital. While little is known beyond the presence of MRSA in both the bed bugs and patients in question, if bed bugs are transmitting MRSA to humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should outline an action plan to: 1) determine if bed bugs in the United States have MRSA in their systems; and 2) what can be done to prevent a public health epidemic.
Additionally, I am concerned that consumers are unknowingly exposing themselves to MRSA-tainted supermarket meat. While the CDC has already stated that bacteria can be killed by properly cooking meat and washing surfaces, I am concerned that this guidance does not reflect the serious dangers associated with MRSA infections.
Already this year, Ohio has experienced two MRSA outbreaks in one county alone. These infections are not only dangerous, but incredibly disruptive to the schools, hospitals, and workplaces at which they are contracted. This Congress, I plan to reintroduce the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act. The STAAR Act would strengthen federal antimicrobial resistance surveillance, prevention and control, and research efforts, as well as enhance the collection of critical information on the use of antibiotics in humans and animals.
However, prior to Congressional intervention, the CDC should develop a strategy to address potential MRSA transmission from beg bugs to humans. Prior to this discovery in Vancouver, concern over bed bugs was constrained to troublesome bites and infestations – not deadly infections. I urge the CDC to investigate whether bed bugs in the United States have MRSA and if they can transmit the infection to humans. Additionally, the CDC should consider drafting guidelines for handling and cooking meat in light of the discovery in Michigan.
I appreciate you taking the time to review my concerns. I look forward to your prompt response
United States Senator