FEB 13, 2018 12:13 PM PST

Bed Bugs: More Than Just A Nuisance

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

As if bed bugs weren’t irritating enough, researchers have now associated the pests with dangerously high levels of histamine. In a new study from North Carolina State University (NCSU), scientists compared apartment homes that were bed bug-free versus homes infested with bed bugs - before and after professional heat treatment.

Bed bugs emit substantial and persistent amounts of histamine in infested homes. Credit: Matt Bertone, NC State University

Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius feed on blood like mosquitoes, causing irritating bumps. But unlike mosquitoes, no evidence links the spread of disease to bed bugs. However, bed bug infestations are considered to be a public health pest by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Histamine is a chemical released by the immune system that promotes inflammation, often in response to a pathogenic invasion or “cellular repair work.” Histamine is also released as part of an allergic reactions to food, pollen, or mold. Because of its connections to allergies, histamine is also used in skin and respiratory allergy tests as a positive control.

How are bed bugs and histamines related? Researchers found that bed bugs release histamine in their feces, and bed bugs sense histamine as a sign of a good place to set up shop (like a mattress).

In the new study, researchers compared histamine levels in homes in a Raleigh apartment complex, with and without bed bug infestation. They collected household dust and also examined the effect of treatment and time on histamine levels. Researchers found that histamine levels were 20 time higher in homes infested with bed bugs than in bed bug-free homes. Plus, histamine levels did not decrease significantly in three months after professional heat treatment.

"A combination of heat treatment to eradicate bed bugs and rigorous cleaning to eliminate some of the household dust could be a way to reduce these histamine levels; we'll do future testing to bear that out," explained NCSU’s Zachary DeVries. "We'll also further investigate the effects of histamine in an indoor environment, including chronic exposure to histamine at low levels."

The present study was published in the journal PLoS One.

Sources: EPA, North Carolina State University

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 15, 2018
Immunology
JUL 15, 2018
Enzyme Pathway Mediates Immune Response to Chagas Disease
The enzyme, PI3Kγ, regulates the immune response to T. cruzi, the cause of Chagas Disease. Manipulation of this enzyme may lead to better treatment of T. cruzi....
JUL 16, 2018
Immunology
JUL 16, 2018
T cells and the Need for Speed
A recent study has shown that T cell receptors are dispersed across the T cell surface, as opposed to clustered, to allow for a rapid immune reaction....
JUL 19, 2018
Videos
JUL 19, 2018
Hazmat Spill at Johns Hopkins
Biohazards are a common problem in any kind of scientific research, and if a spill of dangerous materials occurs, it can be deadly. Luckily, a recent spill...
AUG 04, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 04, 2018
The Viral Link to Irritable Bowel Disease
We now know of the importance of the microbiome, but most of the research focus has been on bacteria....
OCT 04, 2018
Videos
OCT 04, 2018
Why Do We Have Nightmares With a Fever?
Fever is the body’s response to a threat. When some viruses or bacteria try to enter the body, an immune response begins that can include a sharp ris...
NOV 14, 2018
Immunology
NOV 14, 2018
Rapid Tumor Targeting
Researchers at the University of California Irvine have developed a technology that will rapidly identify and target T cell receptors for tumor specific antigens...
Loading Comments...