nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's The Difference Between Lice And Bed Bugs?

Some people think they're the same.  Not so.

I know, your favorite Sunday conversational item, but the US is experiencing a sharp increase in bed bug infestations.  And treatment for one is not the same as treatment for the other.

Biologically, they are from different insect classes:  Lice are Phthiraptera and bedbugs are Hemiptera. 
As you might expect from the classification, they are very different in their habits and the problems they cause.

Lice are obligate parasites of mammals, scavengers that feed off of dead skin and other debris.  By themselves, they are an annoying infestation, although they can transmit typhus.  They cling to body hair.  Treatments are fairly straightforward, if not always 100% effective:  lice combs, and over-the-counter treatments, shaving, etc.

Bedbugs, at least the human type, are blood feeders, piercing the skin with feeding tubes.  The name comes from their habitat around the home, and their mostly nocturnal feeding pattern...hence the "bed" part.  Outbreaks and prevalence have been increasing since 1995 or so.  As blood feeders, they cause other infections, and allergic reactions, sometimes severe.

The problem with bedbugs is, they are becoming increasingly resistant.  Historically, DDT almost brought about eradication, but with banning of that and a reluctance by the FDA to approve other chemicals that have some long-term negative health consequences--combined with increasing resistance to DDT and other agents--the parasite will continue to spread.

In apartment complexes, if brought into one apartment, it can spread to other units.

Given the public health consequences of inaction, a search for more safe and effective therapies is underway.  FDA may be forced to re-look at some of their decisions to disapprove effective chemicals.

Without any clear path ahead, I expect this to become a growing concern.

Doc D

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