These tiny insects have staged a global resurgence in the past two
decades after being nearly eradicated in many regions, but
scientists on Tuesday unveiled a complete genetic map of the bedbug
that could guide efforts to foil the resilient parasite.
"This is an enormous new tool for researchers interested in
controlling this pest," said George Amato, director of the Sackler
Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural
History in New York.
"Bed bugs are now very widespread in most major cities around the
world, and they have increasingly become resistant to insecticides,
making them harder to control," American Museum of Natural History
entomologist Louis Sorkin said.
The scientists identified genes responsible for their insecticide
resistance, genes involved in mitigating the traumatic effects of
their brand of copulation and anti-coagulant genes useful for an
insect that makes blood its exclusive source of nutrients and water.
These genetic traits may present vulnerabilities that could be
exploited with future insecticides. The genome also harbors numerous
genes that originated in bacteria, including one that helps bedbugs
metabolize vitamin B. This indicates antibiotics that target
bacteria beneficial to bedbugs could be used to control the insects.
During mating, male bedbugs stab a V-shaped area of a female's
abdomen with their sickle-shaped genitalia. Females possess genes
that control a protein that makes that part of their anatomy
stronger and better able to withstand this rough sex.
bugs measure roughly a quarter inch (5 mm) and are reddish-brown.
Their bites are not known to transmit disease but some people have
very strong allergic reactions, Weill Cornell Medicine geneticist
Christopher Mason said.
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"Bed bugs will hide in a variety of places throughout a home.
Commonly, they will be on the seams of couches and beds or hidden
within the frames of furniture. They have been found in electrical
sockets, in drawers or where floors and walls meet," University of
Cincinnati entomologist Joshua Benoit added.
Bedbugs, found on every continent except Antarctica, have been
biting people for thousands of years. Widespread insecticide use in
homes after World War Two eliminated them from many regions but
bedbugs rebounded by developing pesticide resistance, thriving in
heated homes and hitching rides in luggage in international travel.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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