According to a new study published by North Carolina State University (NCSU), “two common drugs used by veterinarians to combat parasites may be effective against bed bugs, with one showing especially strong potential.” 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 controlling resurgent bed bug populations on poultry farms.
“In a collaboration between entomologists and veterinary scientists from NC State’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,” the news release states. “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.” In the field, the researchers note, “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 say that chickens could be quickly metabolizing or clearing ivermectin from their systems. ”
Dr. Coby Schal, the Blanton J. Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Entomology at NCSU and the corresponding author of a paper describing the work, notes that the drugs affect receptors in the nervous system of bed bugs: “The bed bug is a globally important insect. The last few decades have seen a resurgence of bed bugs in homes, and now we’re seeing bed bugs return to poultry farms. 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.”
In addition to the risk to the poultry population, the researchers were concerned about farm workers also bringing home the bed bugs and contributing to population spread of the pest. The study proposes “that dosing fluralaner in poultry drinking water could serve as an effective measure against bed bugs. A combination of monitoring, education, heat treatments and fluralaner could hold the key to eradicating bed bugs from infested poultry farms.” Whether this means fluralener will one day be approved as an active ingredient in the structural pest control industry remains to be seen.
The study appears in Parasites & Vectors. Andrea E. Thomson, Olivia A. Petritz, Rocio Crespo, Ahmed Haija, Richard G. Santangelo co-authored the paper. Funding was provided by the Blanton J. Whitmire Endowment at NC State, and grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Healthy Homes program (NCHHU0053-19) and the National Science Foundation (DEB-1754190).