Bedbugs Beat Pesticides Their Own Way | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 91 Issue 11 | p. 39 | Concentrates
Issue Date: March 18, 2013

Bedbugs Beat Pesticides Their Own Way

Bloodsucking insects beef up defenses near their exoskeletons—a trick no other insect uses
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Critter Chemistry
News Channels: Biological SCENE, Materials SCENE, Nano SCENE
Keywords: bedbugs, pesticides, resistance, transcriptome, cytochrome P450, evolution
Some bedbugs have developed resistance to insecticides such as deltamethrin.
Credit: Michael F. Potter
A photograph of adolescent and adult bedbugs shown with a structure of deltamethrin.
Some bedbugs have developed resistance to insecticides such as deltamethrin.
Credit: Michael F. Potter

Bedbugs have evolved an insecticide-resistance strategy unlike that of any other pest: They beef up levels of pesticide-detoxifying genes in a layer of cells just beneath their exoskeletons, according to a study (Sci. Rep., DOI: 10.1038/srep01456). That information might help chemists design more effective ways to control bedbug infestations. Subba R. Palli and colleagues collected bedbugs from dwellings in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lexington, the home of their institution, the University of Kentucky. The researchers analyzed the pests’ RNA transcriptomes, along with those of bedbugs raised in the lab. They learned that bedbugs stave off pesticides such as deltamethrin in multiple ways, in particular by increasing levels of pesticide-detoxifying cytochrome P450 enzymes and transporter proteins that pump the chemicals out of cells. Many insects use those strategies, but they don’t concentrate their efforts near their exoskeleton the way bedbugs do. Because bedbugs feed on blood and not poisoned bait, insecticides targeting them are designed to kill on contact. It seems the pests may have adapted by strengthening the key cellular barrier under the exoskeleton as a first line of defense, the researchers say.

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