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Cheaper Bedbug Extermination May Be Near

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Bedbugs hide in the seams of sheets and mattresses, coming out at night to bite sleeping victims who awake with itchy red welts. Dr. John Sheele, an Asst. Professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, says getting rid of them with pesticides or heat treatments can be costly.

"It's very expensive to bring an exterminator in and have your house treated," he says. According to Sheele, the price can be thousands of dollars.

Sheele is working on a cheaper approach. In the third world, a drug called Ivermectin is commonly used to treat parasites. So he and a couple of his graduate students did a little experiment — taking the drug and letting bedbugs from a test tube bite.

"I was a little apprehensive," he says. "I wasn't sure if it would hurt or itch. It did both."

He says 60 percent of the bedbugs died, and stresses that this was a small, preliminary study, and more research is needed to determine what dose might be safely used over a longer period of time to wipe out a household of bedbugs.

A national pest control company recently released its annual list of cities infested with bedbugs. Based on the number of calls received, the company ranked Chicago number one. Washington, D.C. came in at number seven, while Richmond ranked 12 and Baltimore ranked 20.

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