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Little Clinical Evidence to Support Bed Bug Treatments

Researchers find doing nothing may be as effective as treating bed bug bites

TUESDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- Although bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) have been associated with dozens of human diseases and their bites are treated with a range of drugs, there is no clinical trial-based evidence for the efficacy of treatments, and there is little evidence that they are communicable disease vectors, according to a review published in the April 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Jerome Goddard, Ph.D., and Richard deShazo, M.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, conducted a review of 53 articles on bed bugs, including two clinical trials of interventions to control bed bug infestations.

The investigators found scant evidence that bed bugs are vectors of communicable disease, even though more than 40 human diseases have been linked to the insect. Reactions to bed bugs are usually cutaneous and are rarely systemic, and treatments include topical and oral corticosteroids, antibiotics, epinephrine and antihistamines. There was no evidence of bed bug eradication or preventive measures, and treatments have produced variable results, the researchers report.

"Bed bug infestations are rapidly increasing worldwide," the authors write. "Bed bugs are likely to be more problematic in the future due to travel, immigration, and insecticide resistance. The most crucial need for research is in determining its vector competence. Development of effective repellents and public education about bed bugs are also important goals."

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