Human Health Considerations: Anemia


Sabou, M, D. Gallo Imperiale, E. Andres, A. Abou-Bacar, J. Foegle, T. Lavigne, G. Kaltenbach, and E. Candolfi. 2013. Bed bugs reproductive life cycle in the clothes of a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s disease results in iron deficiency anemia. Parasite. 20: 16. doi: 10.1051/parasite/2013018

“We report the case of an 82-year-old patient, hospitalized for malaise. Her clothes were infested by numerous insects and the entomological analysis identified them as being Cimex lectularius (bed bugs). The history of the patient highlighted severe cognitive impairment. The biological assessment initially showed a profound microcytic, aregenerative, iron deficiency anemia. A vitamin B12 deficiency due to pernicious anemia (positive intrinsic factor antibodies) was also highlighted, but this was not enough to explain the anemia without macrocytosis. Laboratory tests, endoscopy and a CT scan eliminated a tumor etiology responsible for occult bleeding. The patient had a mild itchy rash which was linked to the massive colonization by the bed bugs. The C. lectularius bite is most often considered benign because it is not a vector of infectious agents. Far from trivial, a massive human colonization by bed bugs may cause such a hematic depletion that severe microcytic anemia may result.”


Paulke-Korinek, M., M. Széll, H. Laferl, H. Auer, and C. Wenisch. 2012. Bed bugs can cause severe anaemia in adults. Parasitology Research. 110: 2577–2579. doi: 10.1007/s00436-011-2777-6

A clinical summary of two patients admitted for medical illnesses and found to have severe anemia (Hb 5.3 and 5.2 g/dL) due to a massive infestation of bed bugs in their home.


Pritchard, M. J., and S. W. Hwang. 2009. Severe anemia from bedbugs. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 181: 287–288. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.090482

A medical case study documenting anemia in a 60-yr old man whose home was infested with bed bugs.


Venkatachalam, P. S., and B. Belavady. 1962. Loss of haemoglobin iron due to excessive biting by bed bugs. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 56: 218–221. doi: 10.1016/0035-9203(62)90156-6

The average iron content of 100 large bed bugs was 0.73 mg, and 100 mixed-sized bed bugs was 0.37 mg. Bed bugs that were starved had 0.046 mg of iron/100 insects. The significance of iron that is lost through repeated bug bites is discussed in relation to wide-spread iron deficiency anemia among infants and young children in Hyderabad and surrounding areas in India.