Entries in Bedbugs (4)


Bedbugs Foiled By Hairy Limbs, Study Finds

Ben de la Cruz/The Washington Post via Getty Images(SHEFFIELD, England) -- Want to fight bedbugs? Try giving your razor a rest.

A group of British researchers have found that hairier humans may have the upper hand in fending off bedbugs compared to their shaved peers. In a new study, scientists suggest that the fine hairs on human skin slow bedbugs down and   help people better detect the bloodsuckers on their bodies.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield unleashed hungry bedbugs on the arms of 29 student volunteers, each with one shaved and one unshaved arm. The researchers watched the bedbugs, timing how long it took them to find a place to dig in for a meal. (None of the volunteers were actually bitten during the experiment; the researchers removed the bugs just as they were about to feed.) The volunteers kept a count of each time they felt a bug crawling on their skin.

They found that the volunteers detected the bugs more frequently on their hairy arms, and that the bedbugs on these hairy arms took longer to find a spot to bite.

The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.

Catherine Hill, a medical entomologist at Purdue University, said it made sense that more hair would slow down foraging bedbugs.

“But it’s a bit counterintuitive that the host has a greater number of bedbug detections when there’s more hair,” Hill told ABC News. “But in a way, it makes sense. Hair is like our antennae, and it initiates a response from us by sending signals to our nervous system.”

However, extreme hairiness could end up being a hindrance in the hunt for bedbugs, said the study’s author, Michael Siva-Jothy.

“If you have a heavy coat of long, thick hairs, it is easier for parasites to hide, even if you can detect them,” Siva-Jothy told BBC News.

Researchers said the study also gave interesting clues into how people evolved, with less hair on their  bodies, than their hairier mammalian brethren.  Previous research suggested that mosquitoes, bedbugs and other bloodsucking insects bit primarily on bare skin, such as wrists and ankles, of mammals and birds and navigated less frequently to the furry or feathery parts. It might be that humans with less hair were more able to find and remove unhealthy parasites, lowering their chances of catching diseases from the bugs.

Bedbug infestations have been on the rise around the world, and U.S. exterminators are treating more of them than ever before, according to a 2011 survey from the National Pest Management Association. The bugs are about the size and color of a flat apple seed, and are found not only on mattresses and upholstery, but in suitcases, boxes, shoes, wallpaper and headboards.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bedbug Infestations May Prompt Feelings of Anxiety, Paranoia

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bedbug infestations, and often the media frenzy surrounding the vermin, may increase the risk of mental health problems and exacerbate pre-existing psychiatric conditions, according to a new study.

"Bedbugs, mice, rats roaches -- they've bothered human beings, and they have been around for many, many years," Dr. Evan Rieder, a psychiatrist at New York University's Langone Medical Center and lead author of the study, told MedPage Today.  "But there's something about the sanctity of the bedroom and the bed and the fact that bedbugs are attracted to warmth and attracted to blood, because that's how they feed, that really violates something that's really personal to the human experience."

Only 10 people, ranging in age from 21 to 75, participated in the study, but the researchers presented a detailed review of six of the 10 cases at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in Honolulu.  After a bedbug infestation, some participants experienced anxiety, depression, controlled bipolar disorder and monosymptomatic delusional disorder in which one imagines that bugs are crawling all over the skin.

For other participants, it didn't take an actual infestation to trigger anxiety and symptoms of paranoia.  Rieder said some of them exhibited tactile hallucinations.  Even though they did not have a history of an infestation nor a history of psychosis, the participants were convinced that bedbugs were crawling on their skin.  Rieder said the swirling media coverage surrounding the vermin may play a part in the paranoia that surrounds this condition.

"If you look at the media on a global basis, bedbugs are all over the place, and the incidence in the media, in newspapers, magazines, TV reports, has been going up steadily since the year 2001, so there may be some media-driven frenzy," Rieder told MedPage Today.

Any doctor seeing patients with bedbug infestation and pre-existing psychoses "should be on alert," Rieder said. "These people can decompensate even if they've been medically stable for a significant period of time."

Researchers said it's unclear why a bedbug infestation threatens the mental health of some more than others, but they hope to research the topic further, as bedbugs are not going away.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bedbugs Can Carry Drug-Resistant Bacteria

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bedbugs, the apple seed-sized critters checking in to mattresses nationwide, may be traveling with some risky baggage. A new report suggests that hard-to-tackle pests whose deep bites leave itchy welts can carry drug-resistant bacteria -- better known as "superbugs."

Canadian researchers found methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) on bedbugs collected from three hospitalized patients, according to the report published Wednesday in Emerging Infectious Diseases -- the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's journal.

But whether the bugs can actually infect a person remains unclear.

"There is no evidence that bedbugs can infect people with disease," said Philip M. Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University's Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Scientists Study Bedbug Genome for Weaknesses

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- As the war on bedbugs wears on, scientists try to understand the invasive pests so they can kill the suckers.  Now, Ohio State University researchers have conducted the first genetic study to identify pesticide-resistant genes the bugs carry.  It may lead to new ways of controlling the bugs in the future.

"Right now, these studies are still preliminary and only scratching the surface of the bedbug genome," said Omprakash Mittapalli, Ph.D., assistant professor of entomology at Ohio Agricultural and Development Center and corresponding author of the study.  "But bedbugs could be a lot more complicated than previously thought."

Mittapalli and his team analyzed laboratory-reared bedbugs vulnerable to insecticides, and compared them to pesticide-exposed bedbugs found in a local apartment in 2009 and 2010.  Researchers identified more than 35,000 expressed sequence tags, tiny portions of a gene that can be used to help identify unknown genes and map their positions within the genome.

"The genetic bases for these genes could enable us to formulate newer development strategies that may be more effective than what we have right now," said Mittapalli.  "But a lot more studies need to be done, not only to identify candidate genes, but also to get a better understanding of the biology of the insect."

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, found that there were differences in a gene, known as CYP9, between the bedbugs exposed to pesticides and the non-exposed bedbugs.  In other words, scientists say bedbugs may be genetically resistant to the pesticides currently used to get rid of them.

"If we can suppress the expression of that gene and see if bedbugs are still able to overcome the pesticide, then we'll be able to see that that gene is involved in overcoming pesticide resistance," said Mittapalli.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio