Cockroaches (Periplaneta americana and Blattella germanica) as potential vectors of the pathogenic bacteria found in nosocomial infections

Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2010 Sep;104(6):521-8. doi: 10.1179/136485910X12786389891326.


Although it has been difficult to prove the direct involvement of cockroaches (i.e. insects of the order Blattaria) in the transmission of pathogenic agents to humans, such insects often carry microorganisms that are important in nosocomial infections, and their medical importance in the spread of bacteria cannot be ruled out. In houses and institutions with poor standards of hygiene, heavy infestations with cockroaches, such as the peridomestic American cockroach (Periplaneta americana L.) and the domestic German cockroach (Blattella germanica L.), can occur. In the present study, cockroaches (126 B. germanica and 69 P. americana) were collected from four buildings (three public training hospitals and one house) in central Tehran, Iran. Each insect was processed, under sterile conditions, so that the bacteria on its external surfaces and in its alimentary tract and faecal pellets could be isolated and identified. The oldest and largest of the three hospitals sampled (a 1400-bed unit built 80 years ago) appeared to be the one most heavily infested with cockroaches, and cockroaches from this hospital accounted for most (65.4%) of the isolates of medically important bacteria made during the study. No significant difference was found between the percentages of P. americana and B. germanica carrying medically important bacteria (96.8% v. 93.6%; P>0.05). At least 25 different species of medically important bacteria were isolated and identified, and at least 22 were Gramnegative. The genus of enteric bacteria most frequently isolated from both cockroach species, at all four collection sites, was Klebsiella. The cockroaches from each hospital were much more likely to be found contaminated with medically important bacteria than those from the house. The hospital cockroaches were also more likely to be carrying medically important bacteria internally than externally (84.3% v. 64.1%; P<0.05). The implications of these and other recent results, for the control of cockroaches and nosocomial infections, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blattellidae / microbiology*
  • Cockroaches / microbiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Hospitals
  • Housing
  • Insect Vectors
  • Iran
  • Periplaneta / microbiology*