TUESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Bed bugs appear to breed with their close relatives, an adaptation that not only ups their "yuck" factor but also enhances the tiny bloodsuckers' ability to thrive, two new studies find.
Entomologists from North Carolina State University did a genetic analysis of bed bugs taken from infested apartment buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey. Their analysis showed the bugs had low genetic diversity, meaning that close relatives had mated with one another.
In most species, breeding with close relatives means genetic mutations accumulate, and offspring are more likely to be sickly or infertile, which hurts the species over time, explained study author Coby Schal, a professor of entomology. Yet, inbreeding doesn't seem to bother bed bugs.
Just one "mated" female could be enough to start a nasty infestation, because her offspring will mate with each other, and so on. In the North Carolina building, for example, about one-quarter of about 90 apartments had bed bugs.
"Infestations are generally founded by just one female, and the fact is that the infestation can sweep through a building because the bed bugs are able to withstand inbreeding," Schal said. "We don't understand the genetic mechanism that allows them to do that, but it's not uncommon among insects associated with humans, especially those that don't fly, such as cockroaches."
In a second study, the researchers analyzed the genetic make up of bed bugs from 21 infestations in households from Maine to Florida, and also found evidence of inbreeding.
The research was to be presented Tuesday at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) annual meeting in Philadelphia.
After nearly vanishing by the 1950s, bed bugs now show up in homes, hotels and dorm rooms throughout the United States and the world, experts said. The explanation for their
All rights reserved