Ivermectin, Bed Bug Killing Drug, Shows Promise In Study

11/13/2012 06:19 pm ET

As anyone who has ever had bed bugs can attest, the tiny, blood-sucking parasites are a big pain to get rid of. But a new study suggests there might soon be a new weapon in the fight against the household pests.

Stromectol, a Merck brand of the drug ivermectin, which is already used to fight worm parasite diseases, such as river blindness and elephantitis, killed three out of five bed bugs in a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene on Nov. 12, Bloomberg News reports.

The bugs fed on ivermectin-laced blood and began to get sick and die within three hours.

John Sheele, an emergency physician at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk who led the study, said that he would like to run a "real-world experiment" in which people with bedbug infestations received an ivermectin regimen.

The study marks the first effective pharmaceutical treatment against bed bugs. Several kinds of pesticides are commonly used as a method of controlling the parasitic insects, but treatment can be problematic for several reasons.

"Control and eradication [of bed bugs] is challenging due to insecticide resistance, lack of effective products, and health concerns about spraying mattresses with pesticides," according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In September, companies selling supposed bed bug "remedies" were sued by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive marketing practices. The products were found to contain ingredients such as cinnamon, lemongrass and cedar oil.

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