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Concept: Bedbug


Bed bugs have shown a recent and rapid global expansion that has been suggested to be caused by cheap air travel. How a small, flightless and anachoretic insect that hides within its host’s sleeping area manages to travel long distances is not yet clear. Bed bugs are attracted to the odour of sleeping humans and we suggest that soiled clothing may present a similarly attractive cue, allowing bed bugs to ‘hitch-hike’ around the world after aggregating in the laundry bags of travellers. We show that (1) soiled clothing is significantly more attractive than clean clothing to active bed bugs moving within a bedroom sized arena and (2) elevation of CO2 to a level that simulates human occupancy in the same arena appears to initiate search behaviour rather than direct it. Our results show, for the first time, how leaving worn clothing exposed in sleeping areas when travelling can be exploited by bed bugs to facilitate passive dispersal.

Concepts: Human, Aggregate, Hemiptera, Suggestion, Travel, Traveler, Active, Bedbug


Thickening of the integument as a mechanism of resistance to insecticides is a well recognised phenomenon in the insect world and, in recent times, has been found in insects exhibiting pyrethroid-resistance. Resistance to pyrethroid insecticides in the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius L., is widespread and has been frequently inferred as a reason for the pest’s resurgence. Overexpression of cuticle depositing proteins has been demonstrated in pyrethroid-resistant bed bugs although, to date, no morphological analysis of the cuticle has been undertaken in order to confirm a phenotypic link. This paper describes examination of the cuticle thickness of a highly pyrethroid-resistant field strain collected in Sydney, Australia, in response to time-to-knockdown upon forced exposure to a pyrethroid insecticide. Mean cuticle thickness was positively correlated to time-to-knockdown, with significant differences observed between bugs knocked-down at 2 hours, 4 hours, and those still unaffected at 24 hours. Further analysis also demonstrated that the 24 hours survivors possessed a statistically significantly thicker cuticle when compared to a pyrethroid-susceptible strain of C. lectularius. This study demonstrates that cuticle thickening is present within a pyrethroid-resistant strain of C. lectularius and that, even within a stable resistant strain, cuticle thickness will vary according to time-to-knockdown upon exposure to an insecticide. This response should thus be considered in future studies on the cuticle of insecticide-resistant bed bugs and, potentially, other insects.

Concepts: Hemiptera, Pyrethroid, Deltamethrin, Bedbug, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Cimex, Masked hunter


Histamine is used in bronchial and dermal provocation, but it is rarely considered an environmental risk factor in allergic disease. Because bed bugs defecate large amounts of histamine as a component of their aggregation pheromone, we sought to determine if histamine accumulates in household dust in bed bug infested homes, and the effects of bed bug eradication with spatial heat on histamine levels in dust. We collected dust in homes and analyzed for histamine before, and up to three months after bed bug eradication. Histamine levels in bed bug infested homes were remarkably high (mean = 54.6±18.9 μg/100 mg of sieved household dust) and significantly higher than in control homes not infested with bed bugs (mean < 2.5±1.9 μg/100 mg of sieved household dust). Heat treatments that eradicated the bed bug infestations failed to reduce histamine levels, even three months after treatment. We report a clear association between histamine levels in household dust and bed bug infestations. The high concentrations, persistence, and proximity to humans during sleep suggest that bed bug-produced histamine may represent an emergent contaminant and pose a serious health risk in the indoor environment.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Asthma, Hemiptera, Bedbug


Behavioral bioassays were conducted to determine whether bed bug adults and nymphs prefer specific colored harborages. Two-choice and seven-choice behavioral color assays indicate that red (28.5%) and black (23.4%) harborages are optimal harborage choices for bed bugs. Yellow and green harborages appear to repel bed bugs. Harborage color preferences change according to gender, nutritional status, aggregation, and life stage. Female bed bugs prefer harborages with shorter wavelengths (lilac-14.5% and violet-11.5%) compared to males, whereas males prefer harborages with longer wavelengths (red-37.5% and black-32%) compared with females. The preference for orange and violet harborages is stronger when bed bugs are fed as opposed to when they are starved. Lone bed bugs (30%) prefer to be in black harborages while red harborages appear to be the optimum harborage color for bed bugs in more natural mixed aggregations (35.5%). Bed bug nymphs preferred different colored harborages at each stage of development, which is indicative of their developing eye structures and pigments. First instars showed no significant preference for any colored harborage soon after hatching. However, by the fifth instar, 27.5% of nymphs significantly preferred red and black harborages (which was a similar preference to adult bed bugs). The proportion of oviposited eggs was significantly greater under blue, red, and black harborages compared to other colored harborages tested. The use of visual cues such as specific colors offers great potential for improving bed bug monitoring tools by increasing trap captures.

Concepts: Color, Preference, Hemiptera, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Cimex


Recent advances in genomic and post-genomic technologies have facilitated a genome-wide analysis of the insecticide resistance-associated genes in insects. Through bed bug, Cimex lectularius transcriptome analysis, we identified 14 molecular markers associated with pyrethroid resistance. Our studies revealed that most of the resistance-associated genes functioning in diverse mechanisms are expressed in the epidermal layer of the integument, which could prevent or slow down the toxin from reaching the target sites on nerve cells, where an additional layer of resistance (kdr) is possible. This strategy evolved in bed bugs is based on their unique morphological, physiological and behavioral characteristics and has not been reported in any other insect species. RNA interference-aided knockdown of resistance associated genes showed the relative contribution of each mechanism towards overall resistance development. Understanding the complexity of adaptive strategies employed by bed bugs will help in designing the most effective and sustainable bed bug control methods.

Concepts: Genome, Insect, Hemiptera, Insecticide, Deltamethrin, Bedbug, Cimex lectularius, Cimex


The global population of bed bugs (Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus, family Cimicidae) has undergone a significant resurgence since the late 1990s. This is likely due to an increase in global travel, trade, and the number of insecticide-resistant bed bugs. The global bed bug population is estimated to be increasing by 100-500 % annually. The worldwide spread of bed bugs is concerning, because they are a significant socioeconomic burden and a major concern to public health. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, bed bugs are “a pest of significant health importance.” Additionally, 68 % of U.S. pest professionals reported that bed bugs are the most challenging pest to treat. Upwards of 45 disease pathogens have been reported in bed bugs. Recent studies report that bed bugs may be competent vectors for pathogens, such as Bartonella quintana and Trypanosoma cruzi. However, public health reports have thus far failed to produce evidence that major infectious disease outbreaks have been associated with bed bugs. Since many disease pathogens have previously been reported in bed bugs and the worldwide bed bug population is now drastically increasing, it stands to reason to wonder if bed bugs might transmit human pathogens. This review includes a literature search on recently published clinical and laboratory studies (1990-2016) investigating bed bugs as potential vectors of infectious disease, and reports the significant findings and limitations of the reviewed studies. To date, no published study has demonstrated a causal relationship between bed bugs and infectious disease transmission in humans. Also, we present and propose to expand on previous hypotheses as to why bed bugs do not transmit human pathogens. Bed bugs may contain “neutralizing factors” that attenuate pathogen virulence and, thereby, decrease the ability of bed bugs to transmit infectious disease.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Hemiptera, Bedbug, Cimex lectularius, Cimex, Masked hunter


Bedbug (Cimex lectularis) infestation is becoming a worldwide epidemic due to the emergence of insecticide-resistant strains. Pyrethroids are approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency for use against bedbugs and are considered minimally toxic to humans, with known respiratory, neurologic, and gastrointestinal effects. We present the first reported case of pyrethroid-induced toxic acute tubular necrosis (ATN). A 66-year-old healthy woman receiving no prior nephrotoxic medications presented with extreme weakness, decreased urine output, and acute kidney injury. She had administered multiple applications of a bedbug spray (permethrin) and a fogger (pyrethrin), exceeding the manufacturer’s recommended amounts. She was found to have severe nonoliguric acute kidney injury associated with profound hypokalemia. Kidney biopsy revealed toxic ATN with extensive tubular degenerative changes and cytoplasmic vacuolization. With conservative management, serum creatinine level decreased from 13.0 mg/dL (estimated glomerular filtration rate, 3 mL/min/1.73 m(2)) to 1.67 mg/dL (estimated glomerular filtration rate, 37 mL/min/1.73 m(2)) within 6 weeks. Literature review uncovered no prior report of pyrethroid insecticide-induced ATN in humans, although there are reports of ATN with similar tubular vacuolization in rats exposed to this agent. Bedbug insecticides containing pyrethroids should be used with caution due to the potential development of toxic ATN after prolonged exposure.

Concepts: Renal failure, Nephrology, Renal physiology, Blood urea nitrogen, Pyrethroid, Deltamethrin, Bedbug, Cimex lectularius


The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has been a persistent pest of humans for thousands of years, yet the genetic basis of the bed bug’s basic biology and adaptation to dense human environments is largely unknown. Here we report the assembly, annotation and phylogenetic mapping of the 697.9-Mb Cimex lectularius genome, with an N50 of 971 kb, using both long and short read technologies. A RNA-seq time course across all five developmental stages and male and female adults generated 36,985 coding and noncoding gene models. The most pronounced change in gene expression during the life cycle occurs after feeding on human blood and included genes from the Wolbachia endosymbiont, which shows a simultaneous and coordinated host/commensal response to haematophagous activity. These data provide a rich genetic resource for mapping activity and density of C. lectularius across human hosts and cities, which can help track, manage and control bed bug infestations.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Bedbug


Bed bugs (both Cimex hemipterus [F.] and Cimex lectularius L.) worldwide are highly resistant to the pyrethroids. An important resistance mechanism known as ‘knockdown resistance’ (kdr) is caused by genetic point mutations on the voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) gene. Previous studies have identified two point mutations (V419L and L925I) on the VGSC gene in C. lectularius that are responsible for kdr-type resistance. However, the kdr mutations in C. hemipterus have not been investigated.

Concepts: Hemiptera, Deltamethrin, Bedbug, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Cimex, Masked hunter


Pyrethroid resistance in the Common bed bug, Cimex lectularius L. has been reported worldwide. An important resistant mechanism is via knockdown resistance (kdr) mutations, notably V419L and L925I. Information regarding this kdr-type resistant mechanism is unknown in Australia. This study aims to examine the status of kdr mutations in Australian C. lectularius strains.

Concepts: Hemiptera, Deltamethrin, Bedbug, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Cimex, Masked hunter