Edmonton Journal

Scientist a bed-bug buffet

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Now that we’ve dispensed with all that touchy, feely Christmas cheer, let’s move directly to a story with some bite to it.

It involves bed bugs, those hated pests that hide in beds, rugs and crevices, and wait for a meal of blood to walk in. Feeling itchy yet? Keep reading. Many of us know that bed-bug problems have multiplied over the years as they build up resistance to the chemicals once used to kill them. (If you’re not checking the sheets of that hotel bed before you crawl in, you should).

That’s one reason it was so widely reported last week that researcher­s from Simon Fraser University have made a breakthrou­gh when it comes to the bloodsucki­ng, nocturnal biters.

The finding, outlined in a paper in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, details how the team of B.C. chemists and biologists concocted what they believe is the perfect cocktail of pheromones to lure the pinhead-sized bugs to their doom.

There’s nothing icky about the idea of a commercial­ly available trap that could help eliminate small bed-bug outbreaks. These vermin are a scourge whose bites give some people serious rashes and itching.

But it was the extra service that SFU researcher Regine Gries provided in the name of science that might bug the slightly squeamish. Gries allowed her arm to be the buffet for the lab’s bedbug colony. The university reported that Gries fed more than 1,000 insects on her arm every week for five years. That’s about 180,000 bites.

Why? Gries said she did it to ensure the chemical profile of the bugs stayed true to life outside the lab.

It must have helped, too, that the biologist feels little affect from the same bed-bug bites that cause others harm. “I’m a lucky one,” she told Postmedia News. That’s one way of looking at it. But one suspects her colleagues might have felt more like luck was on their side.

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