Can bedbugs transmit diseases?

Can bedbugs transmit diseases?

For several months, bedbugs have been everywhere. But if their invasive nature is scary, are they harmful to our health? The response from Dr Gérald Kierzek, medical director of TipsForWomens.

They have become public enemy number one. Bedbugs, these parasitic insects that live sheltered from light, are making headlines. Hospitals, cinemas, means of transport, schools… must close due to a “bedbug infestation“. But should we still fear for our health? What potential diseases can they transmit? Answers.

Unsightly lesions

Dr. Kierzek, medical director of TipsForWomens, is firm on this subject.

No, bedbugs do not transmit vector-borne diseases, such as ticks or mosquitoes. On the other hand, they are responsible for unsightly and disabling skin lesions, which can lead to serious psychological consequences.“.

This dermatosis or pruritus can in fact be “very stressful” specifies the doctor.

On its website, the Ministry of Health emphasizes that the skin reaction caused by a bedbug bite varies depending on the sensitivity of each person.1.

Some people don’t even know they have been bitten. For others, these bites manifest as “a more or less localized allergic reaction, with itchy bright red blisters that are quite painful and can develop into a generalized reaction..

For still others, the bites disappear after a few hours or even a few days without any treatment.

But in case of persistent itching, a consultation with a doctor is necessary.

He will be able to prescribe you a cream to relieve you.“, specifies the Ministry of Health which recommends “not to scratch so as not to over-infect the lesionss”.

Bedbugs can very rarely cause anemia

If the allergic reactions caused by the bites of these insects are beginning to be known, few know that they can in very exceptional cases promote the appearance of anemia.

In France, a recent publication dating from July 2023 by internists from Lariboisière hospital (Paris) reports one of these cases. This is a 52-year-old man, severely anemic (even though he had a diet rich in iron). Suffering from various psychiatric and addictive disorders, the latter lived alone in a studio in Paris, where he was the last tenant of a building deserted due to unsanitary conditions.

After checking that the patient did not suffer from internal or external injuries or from a lack of iron intake, the doctors noted that his condition improved as soon as he was hospitalized and that he showed numerous traces of bites, confirmed by the patient. Doctors therefore concluded that there was “chronic blood loss” due to multiple bedbug bites.2.

Several cases have been reported in the medical literature but these cases remain entirely exceptional.3,4,5as blood samples from bedbugs remain very limited, of the order of 7.4 ml of blood (i.e. almost 50 times less than during a blood test)3. The chances of being anemic therefore remain, fortunately, extremely rare.