Scientists have assembled the first complete genome sequence of one of humanity's oldest and least-loved, companions: the bedbug. The new work, led by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, was published online on February 2, 2016 in an open-access article in Nature Communications, and it could help combat pesticide resistance in the unwelcome parasite. The article is titled “Genome Assembly and Geospatial Phylogenomics of the Bed Bug Cimex Lectularius.” The data also provide a rich genetic resource for mapping bedbug activity in human hosts and in city environments, including subways. “Bedbugs are one of New York City's most iconic living fossils, along with cockroaches, meaning that their outward appearance has hardly changed throughout their long lineage," said one of the paper's corresponding authors George Amato, Director of the Museum's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. "But despite their static look, we know that they continue to evolve, mostly in ways that make it harder for humans to dissociate from them. This work gives us the genetic basis to explore the bedbug's basic biology and its adaptation to dense human environments.” The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) has been coupled with humans for thousands of years. This species is found in temperate regions and prefers to feed on human blood. In recent decades, the prevalence of heated homes and global air travel has accelerated infestations in urban areas, where bedbugs have constant access to blood meals and opportunities to migrate to new hosts. A resurgence in bedbug infestations since the late 1990s is largely associated with the evolution of the insects' resistance to known pesticides, many of which are not suitable for indoor application.
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