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Bed Bug Insecticides

Why Bedbugs Won't Die???

Repeated applications of the same insecticides act as a form of natural selection for bedbugs. Any surviving insects pass on traits to their offspring and to succeeding generations.

"Insect resistance is nothing more than sped-up evolution," said insect toxicologist John Clark at the University of Massachusetts, who led the research team there.

By analyzing thousands of RNA sequences—the biochemical record of the parasite's genetic activity—entomologist Omprakash Mittapalli and his Ohio State colleagues found that bedbugs exposed to pesticides showed unusually high levels of activity among those genes controlling enzymes able to turn the toxic chemicals into water-soluble compounds that can be safely excreted.

"When we mined our database for these specific genes, we found that the bedbug has quite a few of these enzyme systems," Dr. Mittapalli said.

They all belong to a major family of enzymes called cytochrome P450 that act as a catalyst for a broad range of chemical reactions and are implicated in pesticide resistance in other insect species.

In addition, an independent analysis of bedbugs by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Va., suggests that other genetic changes may be giving the insects sturdier hides that can keep these chemicals from penetrating their exoskeletons.

Moreover, resistance to chemicals designed to kill the bugs can become a permanent part of their genetic inheritance. Researchers at the University of Kentucky showed that bedbugs, sampled at a half-dozen U.S. locations, remain relatively immune to DDT generations after the chemical was banned for general household use.

"We have changed the genetic make-up of the bedbugs we have in the United States," said urban pest-management specialist Dini Miller at Virginia Tech. "That's what I call unnatural selection."

The researchers hope that a fundamental understanding of the insect's biochemistry will lead one day to more lasting control measures.

"This is an important first step," said Barry Pittendrigh, an expert in insect genomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Write to Robert Lee Hotz at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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