New Introductions, Spread of Existing Matrilines, and High Rates of Pyrethroid Resistance Result in Chronic Infestations of Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius L.) in Lower-Income Housing.
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Infestations of the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius L.) have increased substantially in the United States in the past 10-15 years. The housing authority in Harrisonburg, Virginia, conducts heat-treatments after bed bugs are detected in a lower-income housing complex, by treating each infested unit at 60C for 4-6 hours. However, a high frequency of recurrent infestations called into question the efficacy of this strategy. Genetic analysis using Bayesian clustering of polymorphic microsatellite loci from 123 bed bugs collected from 23 units from May 2012 to April 2013 in one building indicated that (a) 16/21 (73%) infestations were genetically similar, suggesting ineffective heat-treatments or reintroductions from within the building or from a common external source, followed by local spread of existing populations; and (b) up to 5 of the infestations represented new genotypes, indicating that 5 new populations were introduced into this building in one year, assuming they were not missed in earlier screens. There was little to no gene flow among the 8 genetic clusters identified in the building. Bed bugs in the U.S. often possess one or both point mutations in the voltage-gated sodium channel, termed knockdown resistance (kdr), from valine to leucine (V419L) and leucine to isoleucine (L925I) that confer target-site resistance against pyrethroid insecticides. We found that 48/121 (40%) bed bugs were homozygous for both kdr mutations (L419/I925), and a further 59% possessed at least one of the kdr mutations. We conclude that ineffective heat treatments, new introductions, reintroductions and local spread, and an exceptionally high frequency of pyrethroid resistance are responsible for chronic infestations in lower-income housing. Because heat treatments fail to protect from reintroductions, and pesticide use has not decreased the frequency of infestations, preventing new introductions and early detection are the most effective strategies to avoid bed bug infestations in multistory apartment buildings.