Frequent Exposure to Pesticides Has Increased Immunity
Scientists, pitting their intellectual prowess against the voracity of bedbugs, have discovered that these insects have developed a genetic resistance to pyrethroids, one of the very few classes of insecticide used for their control.
A research team at Virginia Tech announced this week that they have identified some of the genetic mechanisms that could explain the bedbugs’ resistance to two of the most popular pyrethroids — deltamethrin and beta-cyfluthrin, commonly used to treat infestations.
Researchers were able to confirm that bedbug populations repeatedly exposed to pesticides have adapted at the genetic level to fight off the effects of the chemicals.
In a test to determine the susceptibility to the pyrethroids, researchers determined that it requires 5,200 times more deltamethrin or 111 times more beta-cyfulthrin to kill bug’s identified with the resistant gene markers than bedbugs who have not developed the mutation.
Researchers have concluded that the genes responsible for both acquired insensitivity to these neurotoxicants and their enhanced detoxification are present in populations that have been subjected to long-term insecticide pressure.
Scientists hope that the finding will guide further research studies, and hopefully lead to better treatment options.
One reason for the epidemic level of bedbugs in residential dwellings is the difficulty in treating rental units with pesticides without harming people or pets. Bedbug infestations generally require multiple applications to kill both adults and larvae, which can go undetected for long periods of time.
Exterminators report that they are having success using heat as a means of destroying both adult bedbugs and their eggs in the same application.
Bedbugs are appearing in epidemic proportions across North America, particularly in major cities, and infestations have been reported in a number of public places including rental housing, hotels, movie theatres, schools, day care centers and libraries.
The resurgence of the bugs, once virtually eradicated, has been attributed to the ban on DDT. Because there were few outbreaks until recently, pesticide manufacturers have not developed a safer alternative as effective in the treatment of bedbugs as DDT.
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