A Chemical in Bed Bug Poop Might Be Making You Feel Sick

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iStock

Bed bugs can give you nasty bites and a lifetime of nightmares, but scientists have long wondered if the creepy parasites can pass diseases to their hosts. For years, the general consensus was no: Unlike ticks, mosquitos, and other insects that are known to feast on human blood, bed bugs aren't packing any harmful pathogens in their bites. Yet according to a new study, spotted by Gizmodo, the bugs don't need to nibble on us to make us sick. Histamines in their poop might be aggravating our immune systems.

For their study, recently published in the journal PLOS One, scientists at North Carolina State University tested the dust in a bed bug-infested apartment complex. They found that samples from some infested homes had histamine levels 20 times higher than those without bed bugs. This was still the case three months after the buildings had been treated by exterminators.

Histamine is a chemical compound produced by our bodies. In small amounts, it works as a vital part of our immune system. It's activated in the presence of allergens, irritants, and pathogens. Say a puff of dust goes up your nose: Histamine is what prompts your body to sneeze it out. It's also the culprit behind the watery eyes, runny nose, and itchy skin you might experience during an allergy attack (which is why you might take an antihistamine to calm these symptoms).

But we're not alone in our ability to produce histamine. Recent research has shown that the chemical is present in bed bug feces. When the insects poop, they spray histamines into the same air that homeowners breathe. A few whiffs of the stuff is likely nothing to worry about, but scientists are concerned about the effects environmental histamine can have on people over an extended period of time. The chemical compound can cause allergic reactions on its own and possibly make us more vulnerable to existing allergens. The implications are especially serious for people with asthma.

"Dermal, nasal, or respiratory responses (e.g. bronchial reactivity) to histamine in clinical tests suggest that exposure to histamine in the environment would constitute a significant health risk, although information on environmental exposure is limited," the study authors write.

For now, scientists can do nothing but speculate on what these results might mean for public health. Humans are prepared to treat only histamine that's produced by our own bodies, and dealing with the effects on histamine spread by bed bugs is uncharted territory for doctors and scientists. How exactly bed bugs obtain the chemicals in the first place is also unclear, but researchers suspect that it's a combination of the blood they suck from us and histamine they make on their own as a type of pheromone, indicating to other bed bugs that a place is safe to invade.

Following this study, the North Carolina State scientists plan to conduct more intensive research on the impact histamine produced by bed bugs is having on the people who live with it. While the best way to eradicate histamine in bed bug poop is still a mystery, there are plenty of ways to deal with the bugs themselves if you suspect you have an infestation.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Why Researchers Believe a 'Crappy' Coronavirus Test Can Help Fight the Pandemic

Cheap tests may be the key to fighting coronavirus.
Cheap tests may be the key to fighting coronavirus.
CrispyPork/iStock via Getty Images

Depending on where you’re located, getting a coronavirus test may not be so simple. It can take days or even weeks to get results, leaving people unsure of their status and potentially transmitting it to others.

Some health experts are now arguing that the country’s insistence on accurate tests that take time to process may actually be counter-productive in controlling outbreaks. They’d like to see a “crappy,” less sensitive test that trades accuracy for being inexpensive, widely available, and able to produce results quickly.

In an op-ed in The New York Times, Boston University economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health assistant professor of epidemiology Michael Mina say that at-home tests that use saliva are inexpensive to produce and can be distributed on a scale that makes daily self-testing possible.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved these tests, which use paper strips to indicate infection, owing to the fact they’re not as sensitive as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab tests and often give false negative results. But according to Mina, that’s not the whole story.

While it’s true simple paper tests that change color after just 15 minutes are less accurate overall, they do a reasonably good job when large amounts of virus are present and when a person is likely to be most contagious. And because the tests can be taken frequently—even daily—a person stands a good chance of identifying an infection. Positive results could also be confirmed with the usual nasal swab test.

Under most circumstances, a person going to a drive-up or walk-in coronavirus testing site may be evaluated only once. With paper tests, their status can be assessed daily, allowing for early intervention and isolation so they don’t spread the infection to family, co-workers, or classmates.

The test could even be government-subsidized and distributed, Kotlikoff and Mina say, absorbing the $1 to $5 cost per test to allow for monitoring in real time. Instead of the current structure, which sees only one in 10 people likely positive for the virus being tested, the paper tests could do a reliable job of providing data for the rest of the population.

“As long as you’re using the test on a pretty frequent basis, you will be more likely than not to catch the person on the day they might go out and transmit,” Mina told NPR. “And they’ll know to stay home.”

Companies like E25Bio have developed such tests, but when or if they will obtain FDA approval remains to be seen.

[h/t ScienceAlert]