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05 August 2020

Do bedbugs dirty the air inside your home?

Researchers found a link between the microbiome of bedbugs and the microbiome of household dust in bedbug-infested homes.

  • A study found a link between chronic pest infestations and indoor microbial diversity
  • Homes infested with bedbugs were compared with homes that were free from bedbugs
  • There is a need to investigate infestations from the perspective of indoor environmental quality


Bedbugs do more than infest your sheets and pillows: New research shows they also alter what germs hover in the dust inside your home.

"There is a link between the microbiome of bedbugs and the microbiome of household dust in bedbug-infested homes," said study author Coby Schal, a professor of entomology at North Carolina State University.

"No previous study has reported the impact of chronic pest infestations on indoor microbial diversity," Schal noted in a university news release.

In the study, scientists studied the bacterial communities (microbiomes) of dust in 19 units of an apartment complex in Raleigh, North Carolina, that were infested with bedbugs, and compared them with 11 units that had no bedbugs.

Problematic in many homes

Seven of the 19 infested units were treated with heat to eliminate the bedbugs after the initial samples were collected, and the 12 other units were treated after one month. All 19 infested units were studied for four months.

The researchers found that homes with bedbug infestations had different dust microbiomes than those that weren't infested. But once bedbugs were eliminated, dust microbiomes in previously infested homes became more similar to those of homes that never had bedbug infestations.

The study was published recently in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

"The elimination of the bedbugs resulted in gradual shifts in the home microbial communities toward those of uninfested homes," said study co-author Madhavi Kakumanu, a research scholar in Schal's lab.

"This paper is the first experimental demonstration that eliminating an indoor pest alters the indoor microbiome toward that of uninfested homes," Kakumanu said in the news release.

"Bedbug infestations are problematic in many homes in both developed and developing countries," Schal said. "There is a critical need to investigate infestations from the perspective of indoor environmental quality, and this paper represents a first step toward this end."

Image credit: iStock

 
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