Sleep Tight

The following is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for The Scientist and just published! The book Unnatural Selection, will be in print by the end of the month.

My sister-in-law, the doctor, was losing her mind. She awoke every morning to oozy-itchy bites. At first she’d thought it was fleas, courtesy of the family pets, but she was the only one suffering. The culprits, she eventually realized, were bed bugs. Who knew? For those of us of a certain age, bed bugs belong in old nursery rhymes, killed off decades ago by a cloud of DDT. Yet the critters, which survived in small pockets here in the U.S. and in other countries, are now making a comeback worldwide: in cities, college dorms, even upscale hotels.

At a recent meeting of environmental toxicologists and chemists, I asked for a show of hands indicating those who had experienced bed bugs personally. While my graying colleagues looked befuddled, several grad students and undergrads timidly raised their hands. Bed bugs have returned, but this time around they are notoriously difficult to eradicate. Populations around the country are resistant not only to DDT, but also to pyrethroid insecticides (both target sodium channel pores in nerve cell membranes), making them even more unmanageable. These crafty pests, along with gonorrhea, mosquitos, pigweeds, killifish, and many other species, are prime examples of chemically induced evolution….

For more see: Sleep Tight

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