Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to kill, and they're getting worse. A new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, has found that the pests harbor 14 genes associated with resistance to various insecticides.
Bed bug infestations are on the rise the world over, particularly in industrialized countries like the United States. The insects feed on blood, leaving small, itchy, red bumps behind. While the insects do not spread any diseases, they are considered a pest. They can survive for months without food, and now they are resistant to many pesticides traditionally employed by exterminators.
Expression of the 14 genes found in the study range from development of a thicker skin that prevents poisons from penetrating to mutations that assist in production of more enzymes that assist in metabolism of insecticides. The study looked at 21 different bed bug populations, and found that different populations used different combinations of genetic tricks to beat human's best efforts to kill them.
The findings of this study could lead to new chemicals that could better combat bed bugs. Then, other non-chemical means are also being employed to combat the epidemic. The bugs are vulnerable to heat, so in places like India those with infestations simply drag their furniture outside to bake in the hot sun. Exterminators in the US are starting to use similar methods to combat the worst infestations.