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Researchers Sequence Genome Of Common Bedbug, Revealing New Ways To Control the Pests

Feb 02, 2016 06:20 PM EST
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Bedbugs appear to be extremely difficult to get rid of, as a recent study found they have developed a hardy resistance to common insecticides. Now, however, researchers may have a solution for that problem: After sequencing the genome of Cimex lectularius, the common bedbug, researchers revealed unique antioxidant genes they hope will help them control the ubiquitous pest.

"Bedbugs were the ignored pests for many decades, but their sudden prevalence has sparked interest in developing better bedbug control measures and knowing more about their biology," Ameya Gondhalekar, an entomologist from Purdue University, who contributed to the multi-institute study by annotating the bugs' antioxidant genes, said in a statement. "The genome provides a much-needed platform for answering these questions at a deeper level."

For instance, the genome sequence reavealed genes that encode enzymes and other proteins that the bedbug can use to fight insecticides, according to a news releaseResearchers also found many bedbugs have evolved new forms of sodium channels - gates in the nervous system that insecticides are designed to target and disrupt - and learned to detoxify ingested pesticides using the same antioxidant enzymes they use to detoxify the blood they suck from slumbering humans.

Although the use of insecticides in homes after World War II reduced bedbug populations dramatically, over the past two decades the bugs have made a remarkable comeback, infesting every continent except Antarctica. Their widespread and rapid resistance to pesticides may, in part, be due to a substantial amount of inbreeding among bedbugs, researchers explained. 

The good news is the bugs' individuality may lead to the development of improved pest control. Their study was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

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