Professor Fights Bedbugs with Science

0

Like many New Yorkers, Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has had bedbugs in his living space.

When he discovered them, he hired an exterminator and then turned to science to fight back.

Kolokotronis was a member of one of two scientific teams that helped generate the first-ever sequencing of the pest’s genome. Kolokotronis’ team worked with Weill Cornell Medicine and the American Museum of Natural History.

The results of the two studies were published together in Nature Communications early last month. The article said that the data would provide an initial blueprint for mapping the pest across human hosts and cities. This should help efforts to track, manage, and control bedbug infestations.

The genome sequence reconfirmed that bedbugs have developed a variety of ways to resist insecticides, said Kolokotronis. Of some comfort, he said, is that the pest management industry remains in constant communication with scientists.

“The bedbugs we have collected from the city are mostly resistant to insecticides,” he said. “But in the susceptible bedbugs we sequenced for the genome paper, we found a variety of genes that generate resistance. Those genes can be investigated further as candidates for developing new insecticides.”

Researchers also analyzed the gene activity across the life stages of the bed bug. Their hypothesis was that the most pronounced changes in gene expression would take place after the first blood meal. They found that the feeding elicits responses in the insect that are related to development and metabolism.

Several Fordham undergraduates played a role in the study and are working on parallel projects at Rose Hill that characterize bedbug genetic diversity as well, he said.

For those wondering whether Kolokotronis obtained the critters at the Rose Hill campus, he said the bedbugs are collected by exterminators around the city.

“Students can get grossed out with the topic of bedbugs, but soon discover the thrill of urban fieldwork and the chase for a blood-feeder,” he said.

Share.

Comments are closed.