Bite Me

By Sepkowitz, Kent | Newsweek, December 3, 2012 | Go to article overview

Bite Me


Sepkowitz, Kent, Newsweek


Byline: Kent Sepkowitz

Our best weapon in the fight against bedbugs might be a pill.

Man's inept struggle against that tiny and most annoying of all pests, the bedbug, took a turn for the better this month with a report of a clever new way to knock the little guys off. Not a minute too soon either--it seems like they're everywhere. Reports of infestation in New York City number in the tens of thousands, and getting rid of them can cost thousands of dollars.

After several millennia of trying without success to stomp, burn, and fumigate them out of our lives, researchers adopted a new strategy. Why not, they figured, seduce rather than repulse, entice rather than exterminate, lure them from their lair by exploiting their most basic impulse--blood lust.

The investigators ingested a medication called ivermectin, approved decades ago to treat various parasites and worms, and then exposed themselves to a swarm of bedbugs. They knew of course that the bugs, like any frisky vampire, could not resist the offer of warm human flesh; after all, bedbugs live on our blood. Right on cue, the insects hurried to the arm, bit down, had a nice blood meal--and dropped dead. The medication in the research volunteer's bloodstream, though too weak to affect the human, was more than strong enough to kill the ambushed bedbugs. …

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