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Bedbugs, known formally as Cimex lectularius, have been biting people for centuries.  They survive solely on human blood. Widespread insecticide use after World War II eliminated them from many regions but they’ve now rebounded world-wide and have developed pesticide resistance.

Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History, Weill Cornell Medicine, the University of Cincinnati and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have for the first time sequenced the entire genome of the bedbug, a process that involved extracting samples of bed bug DNA and comparing each sample. The newly sequenced bed bug genome could shed light on the bed bug’s basic biology and explain how the pests thrive despite efforts to eradicate them.

The scientists found that most genes were fairly consistent throughout the bed bug life cycle, but observed some notable changes. Some genes, showing only after the bedbug first drinks blood, are linked to insecticide resistance, including mechanisms that result in better detoxification and thicker chitin (skin).

This suggests that bedbugs are likely most vulnerable during the first nymph stage, potentially making it a good target for future pesticides.

The scientists located clusters of genes that associated with resistance to pyrethroid compounds, commonly used in pesticides to combat infestations.

Now that scientists know what they’re working with, they can figure out how this resistance spreads and potentially find better ways to keep the pests out of our homes.

Details of the scientists’ work appeared in the February 2 issue of Nature Communications, in an article entitled, “Genome assembly and geospatial phylogenomics of the bed bug Cimex lectularius.”

For more information about bed bugs and how you can prevent or eliminate infestations, contact our trained Sacramento pest control professionals at 916-457-7605 (877-328-4468 toll-free).

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