Bedbugs’ Genes Are The Reason Insecticides Don’t Work On Them, New Research Suggests

By Philip Ross on September 9, 2013 10:04 PM EDT

bedbug
Bedbugs’ genes may be the reason the pest is so hard to get rid of. (Photo: Creative Commons)

They're every New Yorker's nightmare, and every would-be New Yorker's reason for staying away. When bedbugs strike, they're near impossible to get rid of. Turns out, the reason the bloodsuckers are so hard to kill may be genetic.

A new study by Scientists at the University of Kentucky found that bedbugs' genes are resistant to insecticides. The researchers discovered 14 genes that actually render pyrethroids, the chemicals used to fight bedbug infestations, ineffective. Some work by deflecting insecticides away. Others even breakdown the chemicals' molecular bonds, HealthDay News reports.

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And the surprising part is the bedbugs insecticide defenses are actually located inside their outer shells, as opposed to in their guts where insects normally develop resistance to bug killers.

As far as scientists know, bedbugs are the only critters with this kind of genetic protection.

"The only way they're really exposed to insecticides is when we spray them on their bodies or if they walk on the insecticides," study co-author Subba Palli, a professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky, told HealthDay News. "That's the reason they may have developed a different way of defending themselves."

Bedbugs live solely on the blood of people and animals. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bedbugs tend to live within a radius of 8 feet of where people sleep. They burrow in the tiny cracks and crevices of people's sheets, mattresses and headboards.

While they don't transmit disease and aren't considered a major public health concern, the parasites can cause an allergic skin reaction in some people.

Read more from iScience Times:

Antibiotic Ocean Mud: New Bacteria Found Off Calif. Coast Fights Anthrax, Could Combat Drug-Resistant Superbugs [REPORT]

Red Yogurt Bugs: Dannon Slammed For Using Insect-Based Food Coloring In Yogurt Products [REPORT]

Superbugs In Meat: How Did Supermarket Meat Become Infected With Resistant Bacteria?

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