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Study Shows Bed Bugs Carry Bartonella

Competence of Cimex lectularius Bed Bugs for the Transmission of Bartonella quintana, the Agent of Trench Fever

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Bartonella quintana, the etiologic agent of trench fever and other human diseases, is transmitted by the feces of body lice. Recently, this bacterium has been detected in other arthropod families such as bed bugs, which begs the question of their involvement in B. quintana transmission. Although several infectious pathogens have been reported and are suggested to be transmitted by bed bugs, the evidence regarding their competence as vectors is unclear.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Bed bugs at the adult and instar developmental stages were fed three successive human blood meals inoculated with B. quintana bacterium from day one (D1) to D5; subsequently they were fed with pathogen-free human blood until the end of the experiment. Bed bugs and feces were collected in time series, to evaluate their capacities to acquire, multiply and expel viable B. quintana using molecular biology, immunohistochemistry and cultures assays. B. quintana was detected molecularly in 100% of randomly selected experimentally infected bed bug specimens (D3). The monitoring of B. quintana in bed bug feces showed that the bacterium was detectable starting on the 3rd day post-infection (pi) and persisted until day 18±1 pi. Although immunohistochemistry assays localized the bacteria to the gastrointestinal bed bug gut, the detection of B. quintana in the first and second instar larva stages suggested a vertical non-transovarial transmission of the bacterium.
The present work demonstrated for the first time that bed bugs can acquire, maintain for more than 2 weeks and release viable B. quintana organisms following a stercorarial shedding. We also observed the vertical transmission of the bacterium to their progeny. Although the biological role of bed bugs in the transmission of B. quintana under natural conditions has yet to be confirmed, the present work highlights the need to reconsider monitoring of these arthropods for the transmission of human pathogens.
Source: By Hamza Leulmi, Idir Bitam, Jean Michel Berenger, Hubert Lepidi, Jean Marc Rolain, Lionel Almeras, Didier Raoult, and Philippe Parola.* Competence of Cimex lectularius Bed Bugs for the Transmission of Bartonella quintana, the Agent of Trench Fever. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. [1] (2015 May); 9(5): e0003789. Published online 2015 May 22. doi:  10.1371/journal.pntd.0003789 PMCID: PMC4441494