Investigating the association of bed bugs with infectious diseases: A retrospective case-control study

Johnathan M. Sheele, Claudia R. Libertin, Bobbi S. Pritt, Ewa M. Wysokinska, Jose E. Pietri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bed bugs are common urban pests. Unlike many other blood-feeding human ectoparasites, bed bugs are not known to be vectors of human infectious diseases, but clinical and epidemiological studies to directly interrogate this link have been limited. Here, we aimed to determine whether bed bugs were associated with infectious diseases in a set of infested patients presenting to emergency departments (ED) in the greater Cleveland, OH area. We performed a retrospective case-control study involving 332 ED patients with bed bugs and 4,952 control patients, seen from February 1, 2011, through February 1, 2017. Cases and controls were matched by age, sex, and the presenting ED. Additionally, data were adjusted for >20 sociodemographic variables, triage data, and comorbidities in multivariable regression analyses. Seventeen laboratory values, ten different ED and inpatient diagnoses, chest radiographs, infectious disease consults, and blood cultures were examined. The odds of bed bug infestation were significantly higher for patients that had positive blood cultures, had blood cultures growing coagulase-negative Staphylococcus, were diagnosed with pneumonia, were diagnosed with cellulitis, received an infectious disease consult, received a chest radiograph, and had higher percentages of eosinophils in the blood (P <.05 for all). Additional investigations are needed to determine whether bed bugs directly contribute to disease by transmitting causative agents, whether bed bug exposure contributes secondarily contributes to infections, or whether these associations are better explained by other environmental and social determinants of health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere08107
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Bacteremia
  • Cellulitis
  • Cimex lectularius
  • Coagulase-negative Staphylococcus
  • Eosinophil
  • Pneumonia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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