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Why Bed Bugs Won’t Die

Why Bedbugs Won’t Die Irritating Pests Are Evolving Rapidly to Withstand Pesticides, Gene Study Finds By¬†ROBERT LEE HOTZ The first comprehensive genetic study of bedbugs, the irritating pests that have enjoyed a world-wide resurgence in recent years, indicates they are quickly evolving to withstand the pesticides used to combat them. The new findings from entomologists at Ohio State University, reported Wednesday online in PLoS One, show that bedbugs may have boosted their natural defenses by generating higher levels of enzymes that can cleanse them of poisons. In New York City, bedbugs now are 250 times more resistant to the standard pesticide than bedbugs in Florida, due to changes in a gene controlling the resilience of the nerve cells targeted by the insecticide, researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst recently reported. Recent studies show that bedbugs around the world have developed a resistance to the chemicals used to control them. Scientists are now studying the molecular biology of these pests to develop more lasting control measures. View Slideshow Associated Press New findings from entomologists at Ohio State University, reported Wednesday online in PLoS One, show that bedbugs may have boosted their natural defenses by generating higher levels of enzymes that can cleanse themselves of common pyrethroid-based pesticides. More photos and interactive graphics The findings add to a growing body of evidence from molecular-biology studies that bedbugs have recently evolved at least three improved biochemical defenses against common pesticides. Bedbugs today appear to have nerve cells better able to withstand the chemical effects, higher levels of enzymes that detoxify the lethal substances, and thicker shells that can block insecticides. “These bugs have several back doors open to escape,” said evolutionary entomologist Klaus Reinhardt at the University of Tuebingen in Germany, who was familiar with the new research butn’t involved in the projects. “Simple spraying around of some pesticides may not [be enough] now or in the future.” In an era of antibiotic-resistant infections and herbicide-resist ant weeds, the ability of bedbugs to survive once-lethal doses of insecticides is the newest evidence that efforts to eradicate pests that plague humankind may make some of them stronger. It is a key reason for the spread of bedbugs in the past decade,...

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