Tag Archives: bedbugs

Embargoed bedbug study comes with a bite

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Image by UGA College of Ag via flickr.

Recently, as part of a package of studies sent to reporters in advance of their annual meeting, the American Chemical Society put out an embargoed press release on a study of bedbug genes.

The study details how researchers at the University of Kentucky surveyed the entire genomes of 21 different bedbug populations collected from large cities in the Midwest.

They discovered that 14 genes work in various combinations to thwart a type of chemical that has commonly been used to kill the blood-sucking critters. What’s even more fascinating is that most of these genes are found in the insects’ tough outer shell, or cuticle. They code for proteins that pump the chemicals out of their bodies or break their molecular bonds, rendering the agents harmless.

Bedbugs, perhaps more than other insects, are masters at becoming resistant to the chemicals we use to try to kill them. That’s thought to be a major reason why they have made a comeback in homes and hotels across the country. This study went a long way toward showing why they’re so hardy and how we might be able to develop better methods to control them in the future.

The problem is that this all sounds a bit familiar to regular readers of Scientific Reports, a research publication from the publishers of Nature.

Scientific Reports published the same research on March 14. Continue reading

Resurgent bedbugs spread through Chicago

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Almost eradicated by DDT in the ’50s, bedbugs – annoying, biting pests not shown to carry disease – seem to be making a comeback in major American cities. Colleen Mastony of the Chicago Tribune reports that bedbug complaints in that city jumped last summer and have been climbing ever since.

The problem, experts say, has been exacerbated by the economy. Landlords are slow to send exterminators. And cash-strapped neighbors seem more likely to pluck infected furniture from Dumpsters. What’s more, some suspect the bugs are spreading through used-furniture outlets and online networks such as Craigslist.

“Five years ago, it wasn’t an issue,” said Arturo DelAngel, who works the complaint hot line at the Metropolitan Tenants Organization. “Now it’s bedbugs all the time, every day.”

Mastony cites reports from New York, Boston and Cincinnati and finds that the bedbug infestations may be taking on the dimensions of a national trend.

Michael Potter, an urban entomologist at the University of Kentucky, believes that bedbugs are poised to become the country’s most pressing pest problem. “We’re going to see serious increases of this pest, and it’s going to affect a lot of people,” he said.

Scientific American gets the facts about bed bugs in its Ask the Experts feature.

Bedbug complaints proliferate in New York City

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Bedbug complaints are on the rise in the Big Apple, reports Adam Lisberg in the New York Daily News. Complaints have increased 34 percent in the most recent fiscal year, Lisberg said. According to Lisberg, the almost-10,000 complaints an advocacy group found through a Freedom of Information request probably understate the problem, because many folks call the exterminator instead of the city.

Several central Brooklyn neighborhoods are among the worst hit, with spikes also hitting parts of the Bronx, midtown Manhattan and Queens.

“Not all exterminators know how to spot and treat bedbugs, and critics say the city doesn’t do enough to stop infected mattresses from being reused. Some victims may be too embarrassed to seek help, and some small landlords may not be able to afford a competent exterminator, advocates say.”