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Genetics Identified for Bed Bug Insecticide Resistance

Bed bugs and eggs (Entomology Department, Virginia Tech)

Bed bugs and eggs (Entomology Department, Virginia Tech)

Researchers at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg have discovered the genetic mechanisms that bolster bed bugs’ recent resistance to current insecticides. The entomologists and other life scientists published their findings in the 19 October issue of the online journal PLoS One.

Bed bugs in the past few years have developed a resistance to pyrethroids, a class of insecticides used for their control, and one of the few types of chemicals found to be effective. The team led by entomologist Zach Adelman examined two sets of bed bugs: a resistant population collected in Richmond, Virginia in 2008, and a non-resistant collection from Ft. Dix, New Jersey, and raised in a lab since 1973.

Adelman and colleagues conducted tests using two of the most popular pyrethroids, deltamethrin and beta-cyfluthrin to determine their effectiveness against the two sets of bed bugs. They found killing the Richmond bugs required 5,200 times more deltamethrin and 111 times more beta-cyfulthrin than the Fort Dix bugs, raised in a lab.

The researchers then sequenced part of the genomes of the two types of bed bugs, called the transcriptome — the genes most actively expressed, where DNA molecules are transcribed to RNA — and compared the results. The team the identified genes commonly used to produce enzymes that can bind to, deactivate, and break down insecticides.

In the resistant (Richmond) bugs, the researchers discovered these anti-insecticide genes highly active. The researchers also found a mutation in the gene that serves as the target for pyrethroid insecticides, which helps make the bed bug nervous system resistant to the toxic effects of insecticides.

The findings suggest bed bugs have developed their recent resistance to pyrethroids through a population selection involving multiple genetic mechanisms over a long period. “Different bed bug populations within the U.S. and throughout the world may differ in their levels of resistance and resistance strategies,” says Adelman, “so there is the need for continuous surveillance.”

Read more: New Class of Insect Repellant Developed, Patent Filed

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1 comment to Genetics Identified for Bed Bug Insecticide Resistance

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