New Way to Treat Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs!

Bed Bugs!

Sandra Malinowski found this article regarding an insect vector, and the microbial flora they carry. Here is Sandra’s summary:

Many of us have said or heard “don’t let the bed bugs bite” before getting ready to go to sleep, I know my grandma always said that to me before bed.  What we don’t realize is that bed bugs are actually a real parasite.  These bed bugs are scientifically known as Climex lectularis and are small bloodsucking arthropods that can fit into any small cracks or crevices in our homes.  Most people don’t have issues with them throughout their lives but if they do they cause great grief trying to eliminate them.  They are most common in places where there are a lot of people and cleanliness is not the greatest, like dormitories, military barracks, and hotels, although they are not confined to just these places.  I remember seeing a television show where a camp was infested with bed bugs and they spend three years trying to get rid of them while almost going bankrupt because of them.  Bedbugs cause red itchy spots on its victims, which makes this hard to diagnose because they are similar to other insect bites and bed bugs are hard to see.

As it turns out an article on Science Daily discusses how Cincinnati has been experiencing real problems with bed bugs for several years.  They are one of the top bed-bug infested cities by pest control companies such as Terminex and Orkin, which has become a great trouble for them because bed bugs have posed increasing resistant to many insecticides.  The Cincinnati health department decided that they needed to organize a bed bug strategic plan to reduce the infestation wreaking havoc on the city.   Regina Baucom, and assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Cincinnati decided to do something about these pests.  She started studying the DNA of local bed bug populations and found a way to better eliminate these resilient insects.  She saw the insect’s resistance to insecticides and pest control and realized that she needed to find an alternative way to eliminate these organisms.  In order to better understand these local bed bugs Baucom and her team performed a genetic analysis on 31 different bed bugs within 8 different residencies in Cincinnati which helped her to analyze other microbes present within the bed bug’s environment.

Baucom and her team discovered that there were two different bacterial types present in 97 percent of the microbial communities.  These included Wolbachia and an unnamed gamma proteobacteria.  The proteobacteria is not known much about but probably aids the bed bugs in growth somehow due to its presence.  More importantly the Wolbachia is a nutritional mutualist and helps the bed bugs with reproduction and growth.  By isolating these bacterium Baucom could then target these organisms in the pest control to greatly reduce the number of bed bugs due to the important role that they play in the health of a bed bug.  Since bed bugs are so hard to kill and pose a great nuisance for humans Baucom intuitively found a better way to decrease these organisms by not directly killing them but indirectly by eliminating factors that were aiding in their survival.  This was very helpful in the search for a better way to eliminate bed bugs, especially since they can pose a threat to a person’s psychological health and trigger allergic reactions.  Bedtime shouldn’t be a time to worry about creatures biting us, but a relief period.  Think of that next time someone tells you “not to let the bed bugs bite”, because it’s a real threat.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on May 7, 2013, in gross, Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Marissa Weinfeld

    I think this is a very interesting article especially living on campus where I am at more of a risk for having bed bugs. When coming to college my mom was very paranoid about bed bugs and made sure I had all these extra protectant covers on my bed to make sure I would not get bit by bed bugs. I know a little about bed bugs but I wasn’t sure how to get rid of them. After reading the summary of this article I think it was interesting to see that they isolated the bacterium in order to reduce the number of bed bugs. I would have thought they would directly tried to kill the bed bugs but instead they eliminated the organism that was helping the bed bugs survive.

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