Bed Bugs Don’t Need Beds, or Humans, to Survive. They Never Did…

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The rise of bed bugs preceded modern humans by at least 100 million years. They survived the extinction that killed the dinosaurs. Could they outlive us all?

By Katherine J. Wu   May 16, 2019

Nova.jpgDon’t be fooled by their charming name: Bed bugs don’t need beds to set up shop. These intrepid insects will colonize pretty much any place where people pile up, including hotels, movie theaters, libraries, even the occasional subway—ready and waiting to ruin a human life with their bloodsucking mouthparts and death-defying durability.

It’s easy to dismiss bed bugs as loathsome pests that exist to make humans miserable. But in reality, bed bugs predate humans by leaps and bounds, making us the unwanted interlopers that first crossed into their turf.

According to a newly mapped bed bug family tree, these puny pests have been guzzling the blood of other animals for more than 100 million years, long before the rise of both modern humans and bats, their most common host. The research, published today in the journal Current Biology, shows that the bed bug timeline stretches further back than even the mass extinction that wiped out 75 percent of Earth’s plant and animal species, including all dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.

The surprising longevity of bed bugs means we’re no longer certain of the identity of these bloodthirsty buggers’ first host. But the study’s findings could still offer clues on how bed bugs once made the jump to humans, and if that transition will have an encore act in the future.

“Bed bugs didn’t evolve on humans,” says study author Michael Siva-Jothy, an entomologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. “We just happen to be their current host at the moment—which means they’re very good at what they do.”

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Bed bug bites are caused primarily by two species—Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus—which pierce human skin and drink blood with their sucking mouthparts. Luckily, neither is thought to transmit disease. Image Credit: smuay, iStock

The scourge of bed bugs on humankind is believed to stretch back to the very dawn of our species. But only three species—Cimex lectulariusCimex hemipterus, and, less commonly, Leptocimex boueti—routinely spend their nights supping on human blood. At least 100 other types of bed bugs exist worldwide, feeding mostly on bats and, to a lesser extent, birds, and researchers still don’t have a good understanding of these insects’ origins, and how species have split and diversified over time.

To generate a more complete bed bug catalog, an international team of scientists led by Klaus Reinhardt, a molecular and evolutionary biologist at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, set out to amass insects from around the world.

A handful of specimens weren’t too hard to come by, arriving via the generosity of natural history museums, or scientific colleagues who had seen the team’s requests for help on Twitter. Collecting the lion’s share of the data, however, required some pretty gnarly field trips that featured amateur cliff scaling, treks through knee-deep guano, and hikes into remote mountaintop caves—all in search of nondescript insects just millimeters long.

In all, sample collection alone took the study’s 15 authors the better part of 15 years. But the result was an unprecedented collection of pristine bed bug DNA, representing 34 species hailing from 62 localities around the globe.

“It’s really difficult to collect these specimens,” says Christiane Weirauch, a systematic entomologist at the University of California, Riverside who was not involved in the study. “It’s just so cool that this team has pulled this together.”

By comparing DNA sequences across species, Reinhardt, Siva-Jothy, and their colleagues were able to trace the evolutionary relationships between the bed bugs they’d collected. The researchers then combined their data with evidence from known insect fossils to pinpoint when bed bug lineages had split in the past. And when the bed bug family tree was finally mapped, the team was met with a set of findings that flew in the face of almost everything they’d expected.

Because bats remain the most common host of bed bugs (technically, bat bugs) today, Siva-Jothy says, most researchers have assumed that the first bed bugs to scuttle the Earth also gorged on the blood of these winged mammals. Cozied up to cave-dwelling bats, bed bugs would’ve then had an easy time making the hop to our human ancestors seeking shelter some 2 million years ago, and evolved alongside the genus Homo ever since.

Neither of these theories panned out.

The researchers’ analysis now places the origin of bedbugs around 115 million years ago, during the Cretaceous—a whopping 30 to 50 million years before bats are believed to have come onto the scene. It’s not yet clear what species first drew the bed bug straw, but a good candidate might be a small, social, cave-dwelling mammal, Reinhardt says.

Others, however, aren’t ready to completely rule out bats, or at least an early bat-like ancestor. “The fossil records for [both bed bugs and mammals] are patchy…that makes it hard to make definitive statements,” says Jessica Ware, an entomologist and evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University who was not involved in the study. “It’s possible bats are older, and we’ve just underestimated.”

Some 70 more bed bug species have yet to be analyzed in this way, and the family tree could still change with the addition of new data, Ware says. “That being said, this is the first and maybe most comprehensive analysis people have done for [this group of insects].”

Regardless of where, and on whom, bed bugs got their start, it appears these insects were hardy enough to weather a mass extinction—and have remained alarmingly adaptable ever since. The researchers’ findings suggest that, throughout their evolutionary history, several bed bug species went from bothering bats to terrorizing birds and vice versa. Along the way, at least three species dipped their spindly legs into human stock. Surprisingly, all three species appear to have evolved independently, with each making a separate jump to human hosts.

In other words, we humans didn’t actually do much to shape the evolution of one of our most iconic pests, who were perfectly content binging on the blood of bats and birds. It just so happened that, when an unlucky member of the genus Homo stumbled onto their path, certain bed bugs were flexible enough to expand their palates.

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Bats were once thought to be the first host of bed bugs. But a newly mapped family tree shows that bed bugs predate bats by 30 to 50 million years. Image Credit: Mark Chappell, University of California, Riverside

There’s even a chance another bed bug species might one day develop a taste for human blood, Reinhardt says (in fact, it might already be happening). Based on the historical data, these transitions happen roughly every half a million years.

But the more pressing concern might be the enemies we already know, Siva-Jothy says. “With human populations expanding, and our reliance on animals, and the way cities grow and communicate…there will be more opportunities for the species we’ve already got to become more widespread.”

Given the stubbornness of bed bug infestations, that’s not great news. It’s enough to make us wonder if bed bugs have the apocalyptic armor to outlive us all.

We might not have made our bed bugs. But we still have to lie with them.

‘Kissing bug’ sickens more in Los Angeles than Zika and few know they have it – deadly Chagas disease

This insect bites people near the lips or eyes, inserts bacteria, then about 20 years later, the victim suffers a heart attack. Olive View-UCLA Medical

March 28, 2016 |by Susan Abram | Daily News, Los Angeles

This insect bites people near the lips or eyes, inserts bacteria, then about 20 years later, the victim suffers a heart attack.  Olive View-UCLA Medical Center is working to help detect Chagas. The clinic is holding community screenings across the San Fernando Valley to find people who may be infected.

Some call it the kissing bug because it leaves a painless bite near a sleeping person’s lips.

But among health experts, including those from the federal government, the cone-headed Triatomine is no prince awakening a sleeping beauty. It’s an assassin, because it leaves behind a parasite in its love bite that can be deadly.

Photos of the dime-size insect hang inside Dr. Sheba Meymandi’s medical office as if on a wanted poster. The bug, she said, carries the Chagas disease, which can cause heart failure if left untreated.

An estimated 300,000 people across the United States may have Chagas disease, Meymandi said, and the only place in the nation where it’s treated is the clinic she oversees at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar. Started in 2007, the Chagas clinic has treated 200 people, but Meymandi and her team said they are ready to take on more patients.

That’s why she and her staff are working with primary physicians at the four hospitals and 19 health clinics overseen by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. In addition, Providence Health & Services will offer Chagas screenings at a dozen free health clinics on Sundays at churches across the San Fernando Valley for the rest of the year. An upcoming screening will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. April 3 at New Hope of the Nazarene, 15055 Oxnard St, Van Nuys, California.

“It’s very clear that we need to diagnose early and treat early before the onset of complications,” said Meymandi, a cardiologist. Ten percent of those with Chagas suffer from heart failure, one of the most expensive conditions to treat, costing $32 billion year nationwide, she said. That figure could rise to $70 billion by 2030.

Chagas disease was once considered exotic, but more is known about it now than about the Zika virus. Still, most people have no idea they have it or, once they do, lack information about where to receive treatment, Meymandi said.

The disease is most common in rural Mexico and Latin America, researchers have said, adding that it kills more people in South America than malaria.Meymandi said anyone who was born in Mexico or South America should have a blood test.

But U.S.-born residents also are infected. The insect is present in more than 20 states. At least 40 percent of raccoons tested in Griffith Park carried Chagas disease, Meymandi said.

“Most of the people we see and treat in the U.S. have had it for decades,” Meymandi said. “We have the bug here, we have the parasite here. You can definitely acquire Chagas in the United States.”

An infected insect, which hides in dwellings made from mud, adobe, straw or palm thatch, crawls out at night to feed on blood. It is called the kissing bug because it feeds on a sleeper’s face, then defecates on the wound, leaving a parasite behind.

Infection takes place when the parasite enters the body through mucous membranes or broken skin, caused when the sleeper scratches the wound, eyes or mouth, according to the federal Centers for Disease and Prevention. The parasite can lie dormant for years, then cause heart disease, and if not found and treated, death.

Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, body aches, headaches, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. But sometimes there are no symptoms until decades later.

Only two drugs exist to treat Chagas disease, and neither is approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration yet, though both can be provided through the CDC, Meymandi said.

“It’s very simple to treat,” Meymandi said. “But the process to go get the drugs is a challenge.”

Jose Duran, a Bellflower resident, said he learned he had Chagas disease after he tried to donate blood seven months ago. He said he would have never known he had Chagas disease otherwise. He had no symptoms.

“I went to donate blood for the first time, because I heard it was good for you to donate once in a while,” he said. Then he received a phone call.

It’s not uncommon for people to learn they have Chagas disease after donating blood, Meymandi and others said. In 2006, the Red Cross isolated 21 cases of Chagas in Southern California donors. In 2007, the figure more than doubled to 46. In 2008, there were 55 cases.

The National Red Cross would not provide additional figures.

“I got scared. I was like, wow, what is this?” the 40 year old Duran said of his reaction,when he learned what he had.

As a child, Duran lived on a ranch in Querétaro, a small state in north-central Mexico. His brother also tested positive for Chagas. He doesn’t remember being bitten, he said.

Duran was referred to the Chagas clinic and, after two months of treatment, learned Thursday he was in good health.

“Most people don’t know they have this,” he said. “If they get tested, they can get well.”

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

 

Deadly CHAGAS: An Emerging Infectious Disease Threat In U.S.

October 1, 2015 | by Judy Stone | Forbes

Chagas, a parasitic disease, is the latest invisible killer infection to be recognized as a growing threat here. The infection is transmitted by the Triatomine bug, known as the “kissing” bug. The bugs infect people through bites—often near the eyes or mouth—or when their infected feces are accidentally rubbed into eyes or mucous membranes. Some transmission occurs from mother to child during pregnancy. Occasionally, transmission is through contaminated food or drink.   Triatoma sanguisuga – CDC/James Gathany

Most people in the U.S. with Chagas disease probably became infected as children, living in Latin America. The infection often has few symptoms early on, but after several decades, strikes fatally, often with sudden death from heart disease. I suspect that, similar to Lyme disease, the magnitude of disease and deaths from the protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease, is unrecognized in the U.S.

 2014 map of blood donors testing positive for CHAGAS disease. 

In Latin America, however, up to 12 million people might be infected, with a third going on to develop life-threatening heart complications. Chagas is a major cause of congestive heart failure and cardiac deaths, with an estimated 11,000 people dying annually, according to the WHO.

There are an estimated 300,167 people with Trypanosoma cruzi infection the U.S., including 40,000 pregnant women in North America. There are 30,000-45,000 cardiomyopathy cases and 63-315 congenital infections each year. Most of the people come from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, or Argentina; Bolivia has the highest rate of Chagas in the world.

But in the U.S., we don’t often think of Chagas. Even as an infectious disease physician, I’ve never treated anyone with it, and it is not on my radar. So when a physician sees a patient who may have come to the U.S. as a child, and now has diabetes and hypertension, he or she is likely to attribute the heart disease to that and not look for infection. In fact, though, there are large pockets of undiagnosed disease. For example, a survey in Los Angeles of patients with a new diagnosis of cardiomyopathy who had lived in Latin America for at least a year, found 19% had Chagas disease, and they had a worse prognosis than those without the infection.

There are other reasons Chagas is overlooked. One is that Chagas is not a reportable disease except in four states, and Texas only began reporting in 2010. Most cases here have been detected by screening of blood donations, which has found about 1 in every 27,500 donors to be infected, according to CDC. However, a 2014 survey showed “one in every 6,500 blood donors tested positive for exposure to the parasite that causes Chagas disease.” A map of positive donations is here. While the triatome bugs are most common in the southern half of the U.S., they are actually quite widespread, as shown here.
Much bigger barriers to diagnosis are social and cultural. Many patients lack health insurance. Others are undocumented immigrants fearing deportation. Health literacy and language barriers are huge. There is a stigma associated with the diagnosis, as there is for many patients with TB, as Chagas is associated with poverty and poor living conditions. As Daisy Hernández noted in her excellent story in the Atlantic, “it’s hard, if not impossible, for moms with Chagas and no health insurance to see the doctors who would connect them to the CDC” and “patients don’t necessarily have savings in case they have adverse reactions to the medication and can’t work.”

There are pockets of Chagas in the states, including Los Angeles, the Washington metropolitan area, and the Texas border, where there are large immigrant communities from endemic areas. But I suspect that with climate change, we’ll see more Chagas in the southwest U.S., as more triatomine bugs are found further north. One recent study found more than 60% of the collected bugs carried the Trypanosome parasite, up from 40-50% in two similar studies. There are also now seven reports of Chagas infection that are clearly autochthonous, or locally acquired. University of Pennsylvania researcher Michael Levy has shown that bedbugs might be capable of transmitting Chagas, but no one has shown that they actually do. Entomologist and Wired author Gwen Pearson nicely explains why bedbugs are an unlikely vector and notes that you “far more likely to be injured by misusing pesticides to try to exterminate” them.

There’s more bad news. Treatment for Chagas is effective if given early in infection, although with significant side effects. There is no effective treatment for late stages of gastrointestinal or cardiac disease. A newly released study showed that benznidazole was no more effective than placebo in reducing cardiac complications, even though it reduced levels of parasites in the blood.

   Trypanasoma cruzi parasite in heart tissue – CDC

The two drugs available to treat Chagas, benznidazole and nifurtimox, are not yet FDA approved and are only available through the CDC under investigational protocols. Both carry significant side effects. Treatment of children with early Chagas is generally effective but, as with many drugs, treatment is hampered by lack of data on pediatric dosing and limited formulations. There is little research funding for new drug development, with less than US $1 million (0.04% of R&D funding dedicated to neglected diseases) focused on new drugs for Chagas disease, according to the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi).

Where do we go from here? The most immediate and cost-effective proposals are to increase surveillance for disease and screening of high-risk populations. Since the most effective treatment is given early in the course of infection, screening of pregnant women and children is a priority, as is education for these women and Ob-Gyn physicians.
While there is no effective treatment for advanced disease, efforts are underway to develop a vaccine against Chagas. The National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine just received a boost from a $2.6 million grant from the Carlos Slim Foundation for their initiative.

Chagas, like sickle cell, highlights disparities in access to screening and early treatment for serious illnesses disproportionately affecting the poor and people of color. While a moral and ethical issue, the choices made to gut public health programs for “cost saving” will also be unnecessarily costly in the end.

#SayNoToPesticides!

Here’s how California could be missing pesticides’ cancer risk – #sayNOtoPESTICIDES!

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The local community is concerned about high levels of pesticides used near Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, Calif., which is surrounded by strawberry fields on all four sides.  Photo:Sam Hodgson

February 17, 2016 | by Andrew Donohue | Reveal

The local community is concerned about high levels of pesticides used near Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, Calif., which is surrounded by strawberry fields on all four sides.

California’s pesticide police could be missing a serious health concern for residents and farmworkers by failing to monitor what happens when pesticides get mixed together.

As a new report from UCLA highlighted today, California studies only how each individual pesticide affects human health. Often, however, workers and residents are exposed to a number of pesticides at the same time.

That can happen when pesticides get mixed together before they’re applied to fields or when different pesticides are used in the same field on the same day. A growing body of science is showing that the chemical cocktails could create greater health risks than each pesticide does on its own.

In particular, the report shows how three fumigants – a type of gaseous pesticide central to the strawberry industry and used near schools and homes – might combine to increase the risk of cancer for bystanders. Essentially, once in the human body together, the chemicals can team up to attack and mutate DNA in a way they wouldn’t on their own.

“The regulatory system that is supposed to protect people from harmful levels of pesticide exposure has been slow to deal with interactive effects when setting exposure limits for pesticides,” the report says.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s mission is to protect humans and the environment from the dangers of pesticides. The report’s authors, who come from UCLA’s law and public health schools, said the department must begin studying the combined effects. And they point out that low-income and minority residents are at the greatest risk.

“DPR is required to assess this risk and protect public health, but isn’t doing so,” the authors wrote.

The department already is under fire for how it has managed fumigants, which can spread easily through the air. A Reveal investigation found that department leaders allowed growers and Dow AgroSciences to use heavy amounts of one fumigant despite strenuous objections of scientists because of its potential to cause cancer.

When Ventura County residents subsequently raised concern about the pesticide’s use in strawberry fields near Rio Mesa High School, department Director Brian Leahy responded with a series of exaggerations and contradictions.

The department has curtailed the pesticide’s use and begun drafting rules that would limit pesticide use around schools and require residents to be notified of fumigant use near their homes. However, the state continues to keep open the loophole it created at Dow’s request.

Last week, the department’s second-in-charge, Chris Reardon, left without explanation after nearly 13 years with the agency. An appointee of the governor, Reardon maintained close ties with the agricultural industry, copies of his calendars show.

The UCLA report focused on the fields around Rio Mesa High School to make its case. The school is boxed in on all four sides by conventional strawberry fields. Although pesticides aren’t applied during school hours, the gases can linger in the air for weeks after they’re applied without teachers or students knowing.

Combined, the health risk could be much greater than those of the individual pesticides.

“In fact, modeling shows that over the course of about one week people who live and work in the area around Rio Mesa High School in Ventura County were exposed to large doses of multiple fumigants,” the report says. “This level of exposure raises concerns about possible interactive effects.”

The report points out that 35 percent of all fumigants were applied on the same field on the same day as another fumigant, and 26 percent were applied as part of a pesticide mix.

The authors recommend the following changes in California’s pesticide regulation:

  • Pesticides sold as part of a mixture should be tested before being approved for use.
  • When pesticides are mixed at the field or applied near each other, regulators should require testing or create strict restrictions if there’s a reasonable chance of human harm.
  • The combined effects of the pesticides should be considered in the initial health research done by the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the rules it creates around the pesticides’ use.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Misled About BedBugs? Ask Real Estate

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Michael Kolomatsky/The New York Times

The New York Times | by Ronda Kaysen | November 21, 2014

Q. My wife and I recently signed a one-year lease for an apartment. It included a rider stating that all apartments in our building had been bedbug-free for at least one year before our move-in date. After we moved in, we learned from the superintendent that an apartment in our building had been infested by bedbugs and treated a few weeks before our move-in date. Needless to say, we were disturbed by this news — and want to know our rights. As we understand it, the landlord is responsible for the costs of fumigating. Who is responsible for other expenses, like replacing mattresses and furniture? Since we were misled (and have the signed rider as proof), can we demand remuneration for any repairs or replacement costs we might be forced to incur?

Astoria, Queens

A. There are two plausible explanations for what happened here, neither of them good. Either your landlord was woefully ill-informed about the state of the building or he lied. In either case, I would be concerned about how effectively the infested apartment was treated for bedbugs, which are notoriously hardy creatures.

“If this is a landlord who is willing to lie on a disclosure form,” said David Hershey-Webb, a lawyer who represents tenants, “then the tenants may not have a lot of faith in the landlord to adequately address the bedbug problem.”

The New York City administrative code requires landlords to disclose whether or not an apartment has been treated for bedbugs in the last year. The measure does not include any penalties for violating the law. However, if you do get bedbugs and incur damage to your personal property, you could take the landlord to small claims court and use that erroneous disclosure form as evidence of negligence. Under normal circumstances, a landlord is required to treat the infestation and a tenant is responsible for cleaning personal belongings, Mr. Hershey-Webb said.

But before we wander too far down the road of future infestations, determine your risk. If the affected apartment is adjacent to yours or in the same line, you have good reason for concern. But if several floors and walls separate you from that apartment, your risk is considerably lower.

“If it’s an immediately adjacent unit or if it’s in that line, it could have an effect,” said Gil Bloom, the president of Standard Pest Management and an entomologist. “Outside of that, it normally does not make a difference.”

Once you have assessed your risk, decide whether you want to stay in the apartment. Ultimately, you might want to consider packing up your belongings and moving out before the bugs move in. You “have the option to try to rescind the lease on the basis of fraud,” Mr. Hershey-Webb said. Consult with a lawyer to see if you can get out of the lease. Otherwise, you may find yourself battling a bedbug infestation with a dishonest landlord.

Providence & UCLA Team Up to Prevent deadly Chagas disease – the leading cause of heart failure worldwide.

Deadly Chagas disease is transmitted by the kissing bug, aka ‘love bug’ – cousin to the bedbug.

February is American Heart Month and a good time to spotlight one of the leading causes of heart failure worldwide – and one that is preventable through simple screenings.

Chagas disease, caused by the chagas bugs found in Central America and some areas of the U.S., can lie dormant in victims for decades, then manifest itself with devastating consequences.For the past eight years, Providence Health & Services has teamed with the Center of Excellence for Chagas Disease at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar to screen for chagas.

UCLA cardiologist Sheba Meymandi, M.D., program director, believes all migrants from Central America, from infants to age 60, should be screened for the disease, which is curable in its early stages.

“Complications of chagas are horrific,” Meymandi said. “We have a lot of patients who need heart transplants. But if you catch them before complications, you either cure them or slow the progression.”

Eight years ago, Providence adopted the prevention program as a community outreach project, providing volunteers who screen patients.

Last month, Providence contributed $20,000 to the program for outreach in the community as part of its ongoing financial support.

A recent screening coordinated by Providence volunteers resulted in blood samples from 100 people.

The disease is caused by the chagas bug, which bites humans then defecates. Scratching the bite can result in the feces entering the bloodstream, causing a disease victims unknowingly carry for decades. The sooner one discovers the disease, the better the chance of cure, or medication to prevent its escalation.

The parasite exists in our country, but living conditions and the likelihood the species behaves differently result in fewer cases of chagas disease.

This article is a news release provided by Providence Health & Services.

BedBugs reported in some of NYC’s swankiest hotels. They were always there; and it’s getting worse. More important to follow as BedBugs transmit deadly Chagas disease.

February 8, 2016 | by Leonard Greene | New York Daily News
It’s not just the fleabags and flophouses.

Bedbugs have been reported in some of the city’s swankiest hotels with a list that includes the Waldorf Astoria the Millennium Hilton and the New York Marriott Marquis.

According to the Bedbug Registry, a nationwide database of bedbug reports and complaints, bedbug sightings in New York hotels have jumped more than 44 percent between 2014 and 2015.

The Millenium Hilton at 55 Church Street in New York New York.
Google Maps Street View

The Millenium Hilton at 55 Church Street in New York New York.

The data focused on establishments that are members of the Hotel Association of New York City.

Of the 272 association members, 65 percent, or 176 members, have had a guest file at least one complaint about bedbugs at the property.

NR

Michelle Bennett/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

Taxi cabs outside Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Eighteen hotels had a combined 363 complaints, representing 42 percent of all bedbug complaints.

“I stayed in room 2306 for one night,” a Millennium Hilton guest wrote in a complaint to the hotel in 2014. “I found blood on my sheets and a live bug on my bed. I ended up with 60 plus bites.”

At the Times Square Doubletree guest said a stay there last year left hundreds of bite marks on the face, neck arms and hands.

“Extreme case of bed bug attacked on my entire upper body,” the guest wrote.” Went home to Florida a day early and ended up in my local emergency room.”

Research Entomologist Jeffrey White shows off some bedbugs at a informational bedbug conference at 201 Mulberry Street in Manhattan Wednesday.

Warga, Craig/New York Daily News

Last month, a California couple posted a YouTube video about their $400-a-night Central Park hotel room nightmare. The couple found dozens of bedbugs beneath their mattress at the Astor on the Park Hotel.

Lisa Linden, a spokeswoman for the hotel association, said hotels in New York are addressing the issue.

“Bedbugs are a global issue that extend beyond hotels,” Linden said.

”Every member of the Hotel Association of NYC that we are aware of has an active anti-bedbug program in place. If a problem arises, it is dealt with immediately and effectively.”

Scientists who recently studied the bloodsucking creatures in the city’s subway system discovered a genetic diversity among bedbugs depending upon the neighborhood where they were found.

They said the discovery could lead to better insecticides.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Watch this BedBug go from flat to FAT

FYI – A 2014 Penn State Study confirms that Chagas CAN be transmitted by bed bugs and that bed bugs carry 40 other pathogens and MRSA.  ~A. Steiner~

February 8, 2016 | Christopher Terrell Nield | The Conversation
The bedbug problem is getting worse. Infestation horror stories have popped up in most major cities and a pest control team was even asked recently to exterminate bedbugs on an offshore oil rig.

We tend to associate bedbugs with dirty living conditions, but this is a myth – they don’t actually choose dirty homes over clean ones.  Unusually for many blood-sucking insects, bed bugs haven’t (yet) been implicated in spreading disease to the humans they bite, so that’s one small thing in their favour, though they are suspected of carrying organisms that cause leprosy, oriental sore and the bacterial brucellosis, and may be able to transmit Chagas disease.

After feasting on human blood the same bedbug goes from flat (00:25) to fat (3:25).

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES

Messing with BedBugs’ Genes Could Carry Other Risks?

Bed Bugs Will Outlive All Of Us Unless We Screw With Their Genes

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photo:  Bluejake/Sara Bibi/Gothamist

Bed bugs, like cockroaches and new seasons of The Bachelor, seem impossible to eradicate from the face of the Earth, no matter how many exterminators our landlords call to spray that one time and then never, ever again. But Science says there’s some small hope for the extinction of a moviegoer’s biggest fear—screwing with their genome.

Scientists have managed to map the genome of the common bed bug, revealing some fun things about the little suckers. For instance, bed bugs are actually able to break down toxins, like the ones an exterminator might use, to render them harmless, allowing them to survive even when you try to whack them with bug killer. They’ve also been MUTATING, producing genes that make them resistant to certain insecticides and making it all the more difficult to eradicate an infestation. Another fun fact is that bugs’ genes vary from location to location—a Brooklyn bed bug will have a different genetic sequence from a Queens bed bug, though both are equally disgusting.

Bed bugs also inbreed, and their sex is quite violent. This violent sex has been well-documented, and for those of you who have not yet seen Isabella Rossellini’s bed bug porno, you’re welcome, and sorry:

The takeaway here is that bed bugs have been able to hold us hostage for a long time, but scientists might be able to murder them, provided they make a few genetic tweaks. First, though, let’s kill all the mosquitoes.

[A. Steiner:  So…..Messing with Genes Could Carry Other Risks – YES!]

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Genome of BedBug shows close relationships to Kissing Bug, one of several vectors for deadly Chagas disease, and the body louse. Both have tight associations with humans.

February 2, 2016 | News from Weill Cornell Medical College

Researchers Sequence First Bedbug Genome.  Scientists have assembled the first complete genome of one of humanity’s oldest and least-loved companions: the bedbug. The new work, led by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medicine, and published Feb. 2 in Nature Communications, could help combat pesticide resistance in the unwelcome parasite. The data also provides a rich genetic resource for mapping bedbug activity in human hosts and in cities, including subways.

male and female bedbugs – both fed and unfed – comparison with apple seeds

“Bedbugs are one of New York City’s most iconic living fossils, along with cockroaches, meaning that their outward appearance has hardly changed throughout their long lineage,” said one of the paper’s corresponding authors Dr. George Amato, director of the museum’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. “But despite their static look, we know that they continue to evolve, mostly in ways that make it harder for humans to dissociate with them. This work gives us the genetic basis to explore the bedbug’s basic biology and its adaptation to dense human environments.”

The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) has been coupled with humans for thousands of years. This species is found in temperate regions and prefers to feed on human blood. In recent decades, the prevalence of heated homes and global air travel has accelerated infestations in urban areas, where bedbugs have constant access to blood meals and opportunities to migrate to new hosts. A resurgence in bedbug infestations since the late 1990s is largely associated with the evolution of the insects’ resistance to known pesticides, many of which are not suitable for indoor application.

“Bedbugs all but vanished from human lives in the 1940s because of the widespread use of DDT, but unfortunately, overuse contributed to resistance issues quite soon after that in bedbugs and other insect pests,” said Louis Sorkin, an author on the paper and a senior scientific assistant in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology. “Today, a very high percentage of bedbugs have genetic mutations that make them resistant to the insecticides that were commonly used to battle these urban pests. This makes the control of bedbugs extremely labor intensive.”

The researchers extracted DNA and RNA from preserved and living collections, including samples from a population that was first collected in 1973 and has been maintained by museum staff members since then. RNA was sampled from males and females representing each of the bug’s six life stages, before and after blood meals, in order to paint a full picture of the bedbug genome.

When compared with 20 other arthropod genomes, the genome of the common bedbug shows close relationships to the kissing bug (Rhodnius prolixus), one of several vectors for Chagas disease, and the body louse (Pediculus humanus), which both have tight associations with humans.

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