Bedbug War Continues; Scientists Study Bug Genome for Weaknesses


Scientists say the banning of DDT is just part of the reason. They also cite greater foreign travel, more frequent exchange of second-hand furniture and clothing and the bugs' increasing resistance to pesticides.

While the bugs do not transmit disease, people allergic to bedbug bites can experience itching, burning or dermatitis. A bedbug infestation can also cause anxiety, insomnia or worsen an existing mental health condition.

For now, Fredericks said that bedbug infestations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but the pest management can include fumigation, steaming and vacuuming infested areas, and a whole-room heat mechanism, in which the temperature in an infested room is raised above 120 degrees. That's lethal for the bugs and their eggs.

Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA, said that the overall risk of getting bedbugs is still small. And bedbug infestaton has nothing to do with social status.

"There is this social stigma incorrectly associated with bedbugs," said Henriksen. "Bedbugs will come into a clean environment just as easily as a dirty environment. And, while people should practice protective to avoid bedbugs, it's through no fault of their own if they get them."

While it's not the golden ticket, Henriksen said vigilance is key when trying to prevent bedbugs. She gave a few key recommendations to prevent bedbugs from living with you.

When trying on clothes in a store, be sure to inspect the clothes before putting them on, and place your purse and shopping bags on a hook, not the floor. Unfortunately for those who love a second-hand unique find, don't bring home furniture left curbside. If you do buy second-hand goods, make sure you know their origin.

When traveling, keep your suitcase off the floor, and when returning home, inspect and wash your clothes in hot water.

"It doesn't matter if it's a five-star resort, you have to be careful," said Henriksen.

And in the meantime, as we all try and prevent bedbugs from hitchhiking their way into our homes, scientists will continue to work to understand the inner workings of the insect.

"We're interested in effective and safe treatments that are approved by the EPA, along with continued research, basic biology and applied biology of bedbugs," said Fredericks. "In the meantime, vigilance is an important part of the process."

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