June 25, 2021

Christopher Hayes (North Carolina State University)

Bed bugs interfere with malaria interventions: temporal changes of kdr mutations

Spring 2021 Graduate Student Award in Innovative Evolutionary Medicine


Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, and it is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. Pyrethroid-treated bed nets are critical components of mosquito control and therefore essential in the fight against malaria. People’s acceptance of bed nets and adherence to their proper use are often based on perceived secondary benefits, such as secondary pest control. Bed bugs have emerged in recent years on a global scale and pyrethroid resistance in bed bugs threatens to compromise malaria control efforts. My PhD project examines the effects of malaria interventions with long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets on the evolution of resistance to pyrethroids in bed bugs. Because legacy insecticides, such as DDT, targeted the same receptors that pyrethroids do today, I hypothesize that exposure to DDT might have selected and preadapted beg bugs to resist pyrethroids. I propose to conduct an analysis of multiple knockdown resistance (kdr) mutations in archived bed bug collections from areas where DDT use was prevalent. I will compare the results of this study to recently collected bed bugs from communities where bed nets are either present or absent. This study will determine the role of historic selection with DDT and ongoing selection with pyrethroids in driving insecticide resistance and will inform more effective bed net use. It will help to improve the health and wellbeing of humans globally.