Bed Bugs Are Getting Stronger

Bed bugs are only 4-5 mm long, but they feed exclusively on blood. The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) prefers warm houses and bedding… and human blood. These parasitic insects were nearly eradicated in the developed world decades ago, but have since made a stunning return. In five years, the number of reported incidents in New York City increased from 500 to 10,000.

Reasons for the resurgence include increased international travel and pesticide bans. (The last effective bed bug pesticide was banned in 2012.) But there is another reason: apparently, bed bugs are getting stronger. Australian researchers recently discovered that bed bugs are developing thicker exoskeletons, making them more immune to today’s common insecticides.

Researchers in Ohio conducted next-generation RNA sequencing to compare bed bugs that were pesticide-resistant versus pesticide-susceptible. They discovered more than 100 genes that were expressed differently in the stronger bugs, including genes involved in penetration resistance and metabolic resistance. Equipment included an Agilent Bioanalyzer system and an Agilent DNA 1000 chip kit.

Researchers in Sweden studied Cimex hemipterus, a tropical bed bug that is also parasitic to humans. Using an Agilent GC/MS system and ChemStation software to analyze bed bug emissions, they discovered that nymphs emit chemicals that are more repellant to other bugs than those emitted by adults. With pesticides becoming ineffective, the researchers recommend a pheromone-based approach to controlling the pests.

In the meantime, sleep tight… and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

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