The Medical and Veterinary Importance of Cockroaches

by Louis M. Roth and Edwin R. Willis. 147 pages, illustrated. Washington, D. C., Smithsonian Institution, 1957

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The authors have reviewed the literature dealing with the transmission of various pathogenic organisms and parasites by cockroaches. There is an impressive list of such organisms that have been associated with these insects; the associations have been established by experimental infections and by recovery of the organisms from wild cockroaches. The authors conclude, “There is no question about the ability of cockroaches to carry pathogens in or on their bodies”, but that there is “… some question about the epidemiological significance of the fact.” As is true of flies, the filthy habits of the pest cockroaches, especially their inhabiting of sewerage systems, make them potential carriers of pathogens from feces to food destined for human consumption.

The organisms associated with cockroaches include viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and helminths. The review includes sections on allergy, cockroach bites, accidental invasion of man, cockroaches as human food, and cockroaches in medicine and folklore.