The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius L., is an obligate blood-feeding ectoparasite that readily feeds on humans, resulting in rashes, dermatitis, and psychological distress. Bed bug populations have increased exponentially in the last twenty years due to increased pesticide resistance and international travel. Despite their blood-feeding and ubiquity in human habitations, bed bugs are not vectors of any known pathogen. Recent isolates of antibiotic resistant bacteria from bed bugs in a homeless shelter prompted us to identify bacteria from bed bugs in low-income housing in Maryland and Colorado and from a laboratory colony, commonly known as the Harlan strain. Using standard bacteriological techniques and amplification of the 16s ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene, four species of Gram-positive bacteria were identified from surface swabs and whole body homogenates of bed bugs. Staphylococcus arlettae and Staphylococcus epidermidis were identified from the Harlan strain; Micrococcus and Kocuria kristinae were identified from the Colorado samples. Micrococcus species have been previously identified from bed bugs, but this is the first report of K. kristinae, S. epidermidis, and S. arlettae from this insect. As an internal control for the 16s rRNA amplification, a sequence specific to Wolbachia, the bacterial endosymbiont commonly found in bed bugs, was amplified. Using these techniques, no bacteria from the gut contents were isolated. Bacteria found commonly on human skin are closely associated with bed bugs and do not pose a risk to human health. Despite their habitats and blood-feeding behavior, bed bugs from these sites were devoid of pathogenic aerobic bacteria. The mechanisms underlying bed bug resistance to exogenous bacterial infection merit further investigation.
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Vol. 119 • No. 1