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 bugs is challenging, according to an article in the April 1 issue of JAMA.

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) have been known as a human parasite for thousands of years, but scientific studies of this insect are recent and limited. International travel, immigration, changes in pest control practices and insecticide resistance may have contributed to a recent resurgence of this blood-sucking insect in developed countries. Bed bug infestations have been reported increasingly in homes, apartments, hotel rooms, hospitals, and dormitories in the United States since 1980, according to background information in the article. Hiding places are usually within about 3 to 6 feet of suitable hosts and include seams in mattresses, crevices in box springs, backsides of headboards, spaces under baseboards or loose wallpaper. Health consequences include biting and skin and systemic reactions. The potential for to serve as transmitters of disease and optimal methods for bed bug pest control and eradication are unclear.

Jerome Goddard, Ph.D., of Mississippi State University, and Richard deShazo, M.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, examined the evidence regarding the health and medical effects of bed bugs and control and eradication strategies. The researchers conducted a search for articles on these topics, identified 53 articles that met criteria for inclusion, and summarized the findings.

The authors report that although transmission of more than 40 human diseases has been attributed to bed bugs, there is little evidence that they are transporters of communicable disease. A variety of clinical reactions to bed bugs have been reported, including skin and rarely systemic reactions. A review of case reports indicated that the usual response to a bed bug bite appears to be no reaction with a barely visible mark at the location of the bite. The most common reactions for which medical attention is sought are lesions. These usually itch, and if not made worse by scratching, resolve within a week. Some patients experience complex skin reactions.

The authors write that the use of any treatment strategy for symptomatic bed bug bites has not been established. Treatments of common and complex skin reactions are usually symptomatic and not evidence based. Treatments that have been used with varying results include antibiotics, antihistamines, topical and oral corticosteroids and epinephrine (adrenaline).

The authors add that bed bugs are extremely difficult to eradicate. No evidence-based interventions to eradicate bed bugs or prevent bites were identified. Pesticide control of bed bugs is complicated by insecticide resistance, lack of effective products, and health concerns about spraying mattresses with pesticides.

"Bed bugs are likely to be more problematic in the future due to travel, immigration, and insecticide resistance," the researchers write. "Development of effective repellents and public education about bed bugs are also important goals. Research is needed to elucidate the pathogenesis of clinical reactions to bed bug bites so that optimal therapy may be identified."

More information: JAMA. 2009;301[13]:1358-1366

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals (news : web)

Explore further: Reading 'Fifty Shades' linked to unhealthy behaviors

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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 ...

Bed bugs: Awake to the growing problem

Nov 01, 2007

Bed bugs have taken up residence in urban areas across the country, and the infestation may only get worse, said a Penn State entomologist.

Recommended for you

Reading 'Fifty Shades' linked to unhealthy behaviors

25 minutes ago

Young adult women who read "Fifty Shades of Grey" are more likely than nonreaders to exhibit signs of eating disorders and have a verbally abusive partner, finds a new study led by a Michigan State University ...

Emergency department nurses aren't like the rest of us

3 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Emergency department nurses aren't like the rest of us - they are more extroverted, agreeable and open - attributes that make them successful in the demanding, fast-paced and often stressful environment ...

Many patients don't understand electronic lab results

3 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—While it's becoming commonplace for patients to see the results of lab work electronically, a new University of Michigan study suggests that many people may not be able to understand what ...

Healthier foods available in neighborhoods

4 hours ago

Changes to the federal food assistance program for low-income women and their children improved the availability of healthy foods at small and medium-size stores in New Orleans, according to research from ...

User comments : 0