Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are blood-sucking insects that live in close proximity to humans. They have proliferated globally and have become one of the most challenging pests to control indoors. They are nocturnal and use multiple sensory cues to detect and orient towards their human hosts. After feeding, usually on a sleeping human, they return to a shelter on or around the sleeping surface, but not directly on the host. University of Kentucky’s Dr. Zach DeVries and colleagues hypothesized that although human skin odors attract hungry bed bugs, human skin compounds may also prevent arrestment on hosts.
“We already knew that human body odors, carbon dioxide and warmth attract bed bugs to feed on people,” Dr. DeVries said.
“Our latest research shows the reason they do not stay on humans like other pests, such as lice, is due to lipids or triglycerides in our skin that cause them to leave their hosts and hide in nearby locations, such as beds and mattresses.”
In the study, Dr. DeVries and co-authors tested their latest finding by rubbing a strip of filter paper on participants’ skin to collect samples.
They also tested the theory on multiple populations of bed bugs raised in the lab and collected in the field.
“Our findings were consistent across all triglyceride types, all participant groups and all bed bug populations,” Dr. DeVries said.
“Bed bugs nearly always preferred the control filter strip to the one containing skin triglycerides.”
“The bed bugs do not like to sit on skin triglycerides and refuse to stay on surfaces that contain triglycerides,” said Dr. Sudip Gaire, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kentucky.
“We got tremendous results by using only a small amount of triglycerides.”
While further research is needed to explore why bed bugs do not like the triglycerides and if there are other potential bed bug repellents in human skin, the authors think this could be an important beginning to more effective bed bug control.
“There may be several potential management opportunities from our finding,” Dr. DeVries said.
“It’s possible that our findings could be used to deter bed bugs from hitchhiking on people’s belongings, thus reducing their spread.”
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
S. Gaire et al. 2021. Human skin triglycerides prevent bed bug (Cimex lectularius L.) arrestment. Sci Rep 11, 22906; doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-01981-1
Source link: https://www.sci.news/biology/human-skin-triglycerides-bed-bugs-10353.html