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Bedbugs Reveal Their Genetic Secrets in Lab Study
Date:1/20/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists studying the genetics of bedbugs believe they know how the critters become resistant to pesticides, and the finding could someday help drive them from homes, stores and offices across the United States.

"We are starting to scratch the genetic makeup of the bedbug," said lead researcher Omprakash Mittapalli, an assistant professor of entomology at the university's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster. "This will give us a better understanding of the biology of the insect."

It was thought that a DNA mutation made bedbugs resistant to many pesticides, Mittapalli said. But these new findings suggest many genes have helped the insect adapt to commonly used pesticides, such as pyrethroids.

"Pesticide resistance is more complicated than we thought," Mittapalli said. It's possible that changes in the gene structure plus expression of other genes are responsible for pesticide resistance, he explained.

Exposure to pesticides actually may trigger genes to react in defense, leading to a new and dominant strain of pesticide-resistant bedbugs. This type of evolutionary adaptation occurs throughout the insect world, and is not unique to bedbugs, he said.

Their findings won't have an immediate impact in the fight against the blood-feeding insects, Mittapalli said, "but the genetic basis of some of these genes could be used in new control strategies."

Widespread use of DDT and other long-lasting insecticides helped to control bedbugs after World War II, but over the past decade their numbers have increased as much as 500 percent in North America and other parts of the world, according to background information in the study.

These infestations cost homeowners and businesses billions of dollars a year and require the use of large amounts of pesticides, many of them ineffective, Mittapalli noted.<
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