Bed bugs might just be the least popular insect there out there, especially if you live in a city, where many people living close together can allow them to spread easily. They feed on blood, including human blood, and their bites can cause an array of unpleasant effects including rashes, infections and allergies.
In the last few years there have been multiple outbreaks of bed bug infestations across the world, and the discovery of bedbugs in several New York City hotels made headlines. As their name suggests, bed bugs like to live in bedding and soft furniture like sofas, and they are notoriously difficult to get rid of.
They are becoming increasingly resistant to traditional pesticides, and their eradication usually requires heat treatment by professional exterminators, which can be expensive and is not guaranteed to work.
JMU Biology Faculty Affiliate Dr Rajeev Vaidyanathan, a researcher at SRI, has been working with local pest control companies to characterize the bed bugs and document infestations and re-infestations.
[Photo: Students Liz Nichols and Hilary Kurland looking at bed bugs with BIO 380 instructor Crystal Scott Croshaw]
Dr Vaidyanathan teamed up with JMU BIO 380 (microbiology) students, who spent the 2012 spring semester characterizing bacteria associated with bedbugs after a 2011 research article in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggested that bedbugs can transmit Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus and Methycillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus from one person to another.
The students analyzed bed bugs from a local area, from a colony maintained at SRI, and from a nursing home. They used a series of microbiological techniques and biochemical testing to determine the Genus of each bacterium cultured. The genus was confirmed with 16s RNA DNA sequencing. They found bacteria that are commonly found associated with skin, but no evidence that bed bugs are able to transmit any sort of bacteria to humans, contradictory to the earlier study. This work is currently in-press with the journal Entomologica Americana.
The work is continuing with further analysis of bacteria isolated from bed bugs, and the Biology Department’s new DNA sequencer will be used to help identify bacteria that may have been missed using standard methods.