Bed bugs have become a major worldwide insect pest in living conditions and in crowded environments. During the latter half of the 20th century, bed bugs were not considered common pests in the United States and Europe. People living in the west long considered bed bugs to be pests that only affected frequent travelers to faraway regions, but after the turn of the millenia, this perception changed dramatically. Considering the fact that bed bugs prefer to feed on human blood, but will also feed on the blood of numerous animals, many researchers believe that bed bugs have the potential for spreading disease to humans.
Many experts believe that bed bugs could spread up to 40 different disease-causing pathogens to humans. In order to prove that a particular insect species serves as a vector for disease, researchers must prove that the insect can harbor the disease and pass it on to a human host. Luckily, no evidence yet exists that demonstrate bed bugs as being vectors for disease. But this has not stopped some researchers from insisting that bed bugs could become disease vectors at some point in the future.
So far, researchers have shown that a number of diseases can be harbored by bed bugs. One such disease known as Coxiella burnetii (Q fever) has been shown to survive within bed bugs for a period of 250 days. Another disease known as Wolbachia has been found to survive in bed bugs, and can even be transmitted to bed bug offspring, but a bed bug’s ability to transmit this disease to humans has not yet been studied. Like most insects, bed bugs have been found to passively transmit mold, such as aspergillus and nine bacterial fungal diseases have been found in the male sex organs of bed bugs. Hepatitis C was found to survive within bed bugs for up to six months, but the virus was not found within their feces, indicating that HCV is unlikely to be transmitted to humans from bed bugs. However, researchers have demonstrated that bed bugs have the ability to transmit hepatitis B to humans. Although HBV was found in bed bug feces, researchers have yet to determine how this disease can be transmitted to humans from bed bugs.
Do you believe that bed bugs will become a vector of disease in the future?