Bed Bugs Are Getting Stronger

This will make your skin crawl.  Are you itching to learn more?

This will make your skin crawl. Are you itching to learn more?

Bed bugs are only 4-5 mm long, but they feed exclusively on blood.  The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) prefers warm houses and bedding… and human blood.  These parasitic insects were nearly eradicated in the developed world decades ago, but have since made a stunning return.  In five years, the number of reported incidents in New York City increased from 500 to 10,000.

Reasons for the resurgence include increased international travel and pesticide bans.  (The last effective bed bug pesticide was banned in 2012.)  But there is another reason: apparently, bed bugs are getting stronger.  Australian researchers recently discovered that bed bugs are developing thicker exoskeletons, making them more immune to today’s common insecticides.

Researchers in Ohio conducted next-generation RNA sequencing to compare bed bugs that were pesticide-resistant versus pesticide-susceptible.   They discovered more than 100 genes that were expressed differently in the stronger bugs, including genes involved in penetration resistance and metabolic resistance.  Equipment included an Agilent bioanalyzer and an Agilent DNA 1000 chip kit.

Researchers in Sweden studied Cimex hemipterus, a tropical bed bug that is also parasitic to humans.  Using an Agilent GC/MS system and ChemStation software to analyze bed bug emissions, they discovered that nymphs emit chemicals that are more repellant to other bugs than those emitted by adults.  With pesticides becoming ineffective, the researchers recommend a pheromone-based approach to controlling the pests.

In the meantime, sleep tight… and don’t let the bed bugs bite!


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The Opioid Epidemic

Prescription opioids now cause more deaths in the U.S. than heroin

Prescription opioids now cause more deaths in the U.S. than heroin

Opioids are increasingly in the news, most recently with the sudden death of rock musician Prince at the age of 57.

Opioids are medications that can relieve pain by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain.  While morphine is derived naturally from opium, newer opioids such as Vicodin and oxycodone are manufactured synthetically.

Opioids have become the most prescribed medications in America, used to treat everything from pain to coughs and diarrhea.  U.S usage increased by more than 400 percent from 1997 to 2007.  Unfortunately, opioids also trigger intense craving when the drug is absent.  This has led to widespread addiction and abuse.  Opioids now cause more American deaths than heroin.  The U.S. government has called prescription drug abuse an “epidemic.”

The worst news of all?  While prescription opioid use has quadrupled, Americans report still having the same amount of pain.

Researchers in Poland employed whole-genome microarray sequencing to measure the effects of opioids on specific regions of the brain.  They used an Agilent bioanalyzer and Agilent high sensitivity DNA kit in their work.

Researchers with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered that alcohol significantly increases the body’s absorption and enhances the adverse effects of oxycodone, oxymorphone and atenolol.  The researchers used an Agilent HPLC and Zorbax column in their work.

Agilent has developed several methods for detecting, measuring and analyzing the presence of opioids and other drugs of abuse.  An Agilent LC/MS can analyze opioids, cocaine and cocaine metabolites in a single blood specimen with high sensitivity.  An Agilent triple-quad mass spectrometer can analyze several opiates in urine, providing the most sensitive form of quantitation.


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The Scientific Evidence for Unicorns

Yes, unicorns were real. No, they didn’t look like what you think.

Yes, unicorns were real. No, they didn’t look like what you think.

Scientists have long known about Elasmotherium sibiricum.  This animal, which had a single horn several feet long, is also known as the “Siberian unicorn.”

The bad news for unicorn fans is that this prehistoric animal was believed to have gone extinct 350,000 years ago.  The worse news is that it didn’t look like a horse.  It probably looked more like a woolly mammoth or a rhinoceros.  It was about six feet tall, 15 feet long and weighed 9,000 pounds.

Nevertheless, scientists have just made a fascinating discovery about this animal.  They recently uncovered an Elasmotherium skull in Kazakhstan that has been dated to 29,000 years ago.  This means that Elasmotherium was still around some 300,000 years more recently than previously thought.  As a result, humans and unicorns may once have lived alongside each other.

(Note: This story is not to be confused with the announcement from North Korea’s official news agency that archeologists there discovered a unicorn lair.  They knew this because the lair had a carved sign in front of it that said “Unicorn Lair.”)

Agilent has long been associated with the scientific analysis of extinct and prehistoric animals.  I recently blogged about how an Agilent GC was used in the study of ancient horses.

Historically, scientists have been unable to determine how the five living species of rhinoceros evolved from each other.  An international team of scientists employed a DNA-based approach to resolve the contradictory phylogenies.  Using an Agilent Bioanalyzer, they studied mitochondrial DNA fragments from several species of rhinoceros, including one extinct species and two endangered species.

Similarly, German scientists used several Agilent array-based capture solutions – including an Agilent Bioanalyzer, TapeStation, SureSelect DNA capture array and consumables – to develop a protocol for enriching mitochondrial DNA in ancient or degraded samples.

The researchers believe this approach will someday become commonplace in evolutionary studies.


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