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Scientists Discuss How Bed Bugs 'Shrug off' Pesticides

Bed bugs

Research shared at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society revealed that most of the genes responsible for pesticide resistance in bed bugs are active in its outer skin-like shell or cuticle.

| September 13, 2013

In a talk at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), scientists are describing identification of the genes responsibe for pesticide-resistance in bedbugs, and the implications for millions of people trying to cope with bedbug infestations that have been resurging for more than a decade.

The bedbug presentation is part of an international research award symposium at the ACS National Meeting, which includes 12 other research papers on topics ranging from pesticide resistance to monitoring chemicals in the environment to tick spit.

"Every living thing on Earth has a unique set of strategies to adapt to life-threatening situations in the environment," said Fang Zhu, Ph.D., a leader of the research who spoke at the meeting. "The surprise discovery we never expected is that most of the genes responsible for pesticide resistance in the bedbug are active in its outer skin-like shell or cuticle. This is the unique adaption that has not been discovered in cockroaches, termites, ants or other insects."

Zhu of Washington State University and colleagues, who are with the University of Kentucky, quickly realized that the location was the ideal spot for genes that mute the effects of pyrethroid insecticides—today's mainstay home and garden pesticides. The bodies of bedbugs, she explained, are extremely flat before the creatures slurp up a meal of human blood. That profile adapts bedbugs for a life of hiding in the seams of mattresses, upholstered chairs, the lining of suitcases and other concealed locations. But it also creates a vulnerability to environmental toxins, giving bedbugs an unusually large surface area where pesticides can enter their bodies. The shell is tough—and accounts for the difficulty in squashing a bedbug. But research by Zhu's team and others has established that it's also a metabolic hot spot to protect against insecticides. Some genes in the cuticle, for instance, produce substances that tear apart the molecular backbone of insecticides, rendering them harmless. Other genes manufacture biological pumps that literally pump insecticides back out of the cuticle before they can enter the body.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-09-bedbugs-pesticides-simple.html#jCp

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