Two common drugs used by veterinarians to combat parasites may be effective against bed bugs, with one showing especially strong potential, according to a new US study that examined the drugs in the context of controlling resurgent bed bug populations on poultry farms.
Fluralaner and ivermectin, which are used to kill fleas and ticks on household pets like dogs and cats, among other uses, were tested for their effectiveness in killing bed bugs.
In a collaboration between entomologists and veterinary scientists from North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, researchers tested bed bug mortality rates in different experiments: after the pests consumed blood mixed with the drugs on the lab bench and after bed bugs bit and fed off chickens that had either ingested or received topical treatment with the drugs.
They published their findings in Parasites & Vectors.
Fluralaner is a relatively new, longer-lasting anti-parasitic drug used mostly for companion animals; however, Europe and Australia have approved its use for the poultry industry.
Besides household pet uses, ivermectin effectively serves anti-parasitic uses in human populations, particularly in Africa, as well as in larger animals.
Both drugs showed powerful efficacy on the lab bench, killing most bed bugs, although fluralaner performed much more effectively on bed bugs that showed resistance to common insecticides.
“The drugs affect receptors in the insect’s nervous system,” corresponding author Dr Coby Schal said.
Fluralener was highly effective at killing bed bugs that fed on chickens dosed with the drug. Ivermectin, meanwhile, was ineffective against bed bugs that fed on dosed chickens.
The researchers hypothesised that chickens could be quickly metabolising or clearing ivermectin from their systems.
“The last few decades have seen a resurgence of bed bugs in homes, and now we’re seeing bed bugs return to poultry farms,” Dr Schal said.
“Since there is no proven method to stop bed bugs in commercial farms, the potential problems on poultry farms could be massive. We’re trying to get ahead of it by developing technologies that can eliminate bed bugs.”