Bed Bugs: Harmless but Hardy

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By Cile Waller

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – We’ve all been advised not to let the bed bugs bite. But while no one wants to get bitten by these tiny creatures, they probably don’t cause as much harm as people have thought.

Mississippi researchers who reviewed 53 previous studies on bed bugs find they rarely if ever transmit disease, despite anecdotal reports linking them to more than 40 conditions. The worst part of a bite is a minor skin reaction. For most people, that means an itchy spot that usually resolves within a week. Systemic reactions have been reported, but they are rare.

However, while not especially harmful, the bugs are resilient. According to the investigators, bed bugs ensconce themselves in mattresses, bedding, wallpaper, and other places, and no evidence exists to suggest a preferred form of eradication.

“Bed bugs are likely to be more problematic in the future due to travel, immigration, and insecticide resistance," write the authors. "Development of effective repellents and public education about bed bugs are also important goals. Research is needed to elucidate the pathogenesis of clinical reactions to bed bug bites so that optimal therapy may be identified.”

SOURCE: JAMA, published online March 31, 2009

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