Bed bug insecticide resistance mechanisms identified

Oct 20, 2011
These are adult and nymph bed bugs crawl among freshly deposited eggs. Credit: Virginia Tech Department of Entomology

Bed bugs, largely absent in the U.S. since the 1950s, have returned with a hungry vengeance in the last decade in all 50 states. These insects have developed resistance to pyrethroids, one of the very few classes of insecticide used for their control. A research team at Virginia Tech has discovered some of the genetic mechanisms for the bed bug's resistance to two of the most popular pyrethroids -- deltamethrin and beta-cyfluthrin.

The discoveries will accelerate efforts to understand the biochemical basis for in , and in the meantime provides molecular markers for surveillance. "Different bed bug populations within the U.S. and throughout the world may differ in their levels of resistance and resistance strategies, so there is the need for continuous surveillance," said Zach Adelman, associate professor of entomology with the Vector-Borne Disease Research Group at Virginia Tech and lead author.

The research is published in the Oct. 19 issue of , the Public Library of Science open-access journal, in the article, "Deep sequencing of pyrethroid-resistant bed bugs reveals multiple mechanisms of resistance within a single population," by Adelman, Kathleen A. Kilcullen of Ashburn, Va., a 2010 graduate with bachelor's degrees in biology and psychology in the College of Science; Reina Koganemaru of New Britain, Conn., a Ph.D. student in entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Michelle E. Anderson, research technician with the Fralin Life Science Institute; Troy D. Anderson, assistant professor of entomology with the Vector-Borne Disease Research Group; and Dini M. Miller, associate professor of entomology with the Dobson Urban Pest Research Laboratory at Virginia Tech.

Adelman and colleagues studied two populations of bed bugs -- a robust, resistant population that had come from Richmond, Va., in 2008, and a non-resistant population that had been collected from Ft. Dix, N.J., and raised in a lab since 1973.

A bioassay conducted to determine the susceptibility of each strain to the determined that it requires 5,200 times more deltamethrin or 111 times more beta-cyfulthrin to kill the Richmond bed bugs than the lab bugs during a 24-hour test.

Because the bed bug's genome has not been sequenced, the researchers sequenced the bed bug transcriptome – that is, the genes that are actively expressed. They looked at the expression profile of the Richmond bed bugs compared to the non-resistant bugs. They were able to identify genes (cytochrome P450 monooxygenases, carboxylesterases, and glutathione S-transferases) that are commonly used to produce enzymes that can bind to, deactivate, and break down insecticides; and the researchers found that production of few of these was turned way up in the insecticide-resistant bed bugs. The researchers also found a mutation in the sodium channel gene, the target for pyrethroid insecticides, which makes the bed bug nervous system partially resistant to the toxic effects of insecticide treatment.

The researchers conclude that highly-resistant bed bug populations can have multiple conferring to pyrethroid and possibly other insecticides. "It is reasonable to suggest that the genes responsible for both acquired insensitivity to these neurotoxicants and their enhanced detoxification have been selected for in populations that have been subjected to long-term insecticide pressure."

Explore further: Geneticists solve 40-year-old dilemma to explain why duplicate genes remain in the genome

Related Stories

How Bed Bugs Outsmart the Chemicals Designed to Control Them

Jan 08, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Bed bugs, once nearly eradicated in the built environment, have made a big comeback recently, especially in urban centers such as New York City. In the first study to explain the failure to control certain ...

Repulsive smell could combat bed bugs

Mar 31, 2011

In recent years, bed bug infestations have become increasingly common in Swedish homes. There are two different species of bed bug that suck blood from humans – the common bed bug and the tropical bed bug. Increased ...

Probing Question: Why are bed bugs on the rise?

Aug 12, 2010

"Bed Bugs Invade New York City." "Bed Bugs Biting All Over US." "Bed Bugs Are Coming To Get You." From the headlines, you might think America was under attack by an army of millimeter-sized parasites. Media ...

Control, treatment of bed bugs challenging

Mar 31, 2009

A review of previously published articles indicates there is little evidence supporting an effective treatment of bites from bed bugs, that these insects do not appear to transmit disease, and control and eradication of bed ...

Recommended for you

MaxBin: Automated sorting through metagenomes

Sep 29, 2014

Microbes – the single-celled organisms that dominate every ecosystem on Earth - have an amazing ability to feed on plant biomass and convert it into other chemical products. Tapping into this talent has ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2011
Where have insecticides been used to control bedbug populations in the long-term? Bedbugs are resurgent in areas of the first world that have used only sanitation as control for a long time. What has been the major vector transporting these resistant BB from insecticide controlled population areas to relatively uncontrolled areas? Is there a correlation with greenie-driven reductions in sanitation standards in commercial BB havens? Thanks Raj Patel, Housemanager.
88HUX88
not rated yet Oct 20, 2011
the major vector is humans and the stuff they take with them, people are much more mobile these days. How else do bed bugs travel?
Isaacsname
not rated yet Oct 20, 2011
Dur, there's more than one way to skin a cat. 4 ways I could think of off the top of my overipe melon would be: Extreme heat or cold, they will croak at -26f or under and 113f and over. They cannot survive CO2 in large amounts for long, they also cannot survive any sort of extreme vacuum. All you need is a mattress-sized polyethylene vacuum bag and some simple tools. No insecticides needed, no evolutionary circumventing.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Oct 20, 2011
Just wanted to add, I have routinely used CO2 in greenhouses to wipe out insect infestations simply by raising the PPM's in the air to 10K PPM's for 2 hours, then venting with air.

Easy as pie.
Osiris1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2011
Yep, just put your infested humans in a body bag, zip it up, and pump it full to bursting with pure CO2. Hey you may as well use just CO as the poor victim will be as dead as his/her bugs....and his/her survivors will sue you. I think we should concentrate on sequencing the critters' DNA and go from there to develop counters to the resistance. Then the critters will go for counters to the counters and the great game is on. Playing racist blame games is counterproductive, and you racists know who you are.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Oct 21, 2011
Yep, just put your infested humans in a body bag, zip it up, and pump it full to bursting with pure CO2. Hey you may as well use just CO as the poor victim will be as dead as his/her bugs....and his/her survivors will sue you. I think we should concentrate on sequencing the critters' DNA and go from there to develop counters to the resistance. Then the critters will go for counters to the counters and the great game is on. Playing racist blame games is counterproductive, and you racists know who you are.


There's already a few companies that do what I mentioned, they're in New York, iirc. They live in mattresses and feed on people, they don't live on people like lice.