LEXINGTON, Ky. (December 9, 2021) – Entomology researchers at the University of Kentucky found that skin triglycerides, or lipids, prevent bed bugs from staying on human hosts for very long. Their discovery could lead to new management strategies for this important human pest.
“We already knew that human body odor, carbon dioxide and heat attract bed bugs to feed on people. Our latest research shows that the reason they don’t stay on humans like other pests like lice is due to lipids or triglycerides in our skin that cause them to leave their hosts and settle in nearby places like beds and Hide mattresses, ”said Zach DeVries, Assistant Professor of Urban Entomology at the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
DeVries and Sudip Gaire, British postdocs, tested this latest finding by rubbing a strip of filter paper on the participants’ skin to collect samples. The research participants represented numerous age groups and ethnicities. They also tested the theory on multiple populations of bed bugs raised in the laboratory and collected in the field.
“Our results were consistent for all triglyceride types, all participant groups, and all bed bug populations,” DeVries said. “Bed bugs almost always preferred the control filter strip to the one with skin triglycerides.”
“The bed bugs don’t like to sit on skin triglycerides and refuse to stay on surfaces that contain triglycerides,” Gaire said. “We have achieved tremendous results by using only a small amount of triglycerides.”
While more research is needed to find out why bed bugs dislike the triglycerides and whether there are other potential bed bug repellants in human skin, DeVries and Gaire believe this could be an important start to more effective bed bug control.
“Our results can offer several potential management opportunities,” DeVries said. “Our results could possibly be used to deter bed bugs from hitchhiking on people’s belongings and thus reduce their spread.”
The results were published for the first time in Scientific Reports. The full research paper is available online at www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-01981-1.
Other researchers on the study include Russell Mick, Richard Santangelo and Coby Schal from North Carolina State University and Grazia Bottillo and Emanuela Camera from the San Gallicano Dermatological Institute in Rome, Italy.
The researchers were funded by grants made by the United Kingdom from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Institutes of Health, and North Carolina State University grants made by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Blanton J. Whitmore Foundation.
The research reported in this publication was supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a total of $ 400,000 in an award KYHHU0061-20, 100% of which was funded by the HUD.
The research reported in this publication was supported by the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health under Grant Number DP5OD028155. The authors are solely responsible for their content and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.