Author Archives: Anne Persson


Saying Goodnight to Bed Bug Bites

Cimex lectularius

Cimex lectularius, the most common bed bug           Source: Gilles San Martin on Flickr

Many of you may not think that bed bugs pose a significant threat in your life. Several believe that only cheap motels and hostels became infested with these parasites, and that I was never at risk of coming into contact with them. It turns out this issue may be closer to home than we think. According to the British Columbia Ministry of Health, there have been increased reports of infestation, particularly in Downtown Eastside Vancouver, but also throughout British Columbia. Houses, apartment buildings, hotels and university and elderly residences across Canada have fallen victim to infestation.

Scientists at Simon Fraser University have recently come up with a concoction of pheromones that attract and trap bed bugs. After years of investigating this issue, they found the right balance of pheromones that causes bed bugs to be drawn to the source of the chemical attractant. The key is histamine, which bed bugs interpret as “safe shelter”. As soon as they come into contact with the histamine, they stay there, despite whether or not they have recently fed. This essentially helps stop their reproduction and spread. This mixture of pheromones has already proven extremely effective, and has even been tested in bed bug infested areas in Metro Vancouver.

Here is a video by Simon Fraser University introducing the scientists responsible for this research:YouTube Preview Image


Bed bugs were basically eradicated in the mid-20th century due to widespread use of pesticides such as DDT. However, in recent decades they have been making a global comeback, likely due to increased international travel and pesticide resistance. Reaching epidemic proportions, bed bugs are returning in higher abundances, distribution and intensity of infestation. For this reason, it has become imperative to find more effective methods of early detection and extermination of bed bugs.

Bed bug bite

An example of a bed bug bite                                   Source: hiroo yamagata on Flickr

Bed bugs have not been proven to carry infectious diseases, but their bites can be itchy, cause rashes, and some people can suffer severe allergic reactions. Moreover, their presence can be irritating and distressful, causing loss of sleep, anxiety and paranoia. Many people go to great lengths to minimize the effects, including the use of pesticides and radical cleaning.  Pheromones are a much less harmful way to get rid of the parasite. Finding the right combination of histamine and other chemicals could have huge implications for the global eradication of bed bugs. Low-income areas are usually unable to afford professional extermination, and since the cost of the pheromone method is low, these regions will have better opportunity for monitoring and preventing infestation.

So, if you ever have the misfortune of getting bed bugs in your home, hopefully it happens after next year, when the pheromone treatments should be widely available.

– Anne Persson

Friendly Fecals

Poop pills may be the solution for thousands of people suffering from recurring Clostridium difficile infection. C. difficile is a bacteria in the lower gut that causes colon inflammation, resulting in symptoms such as watery diarrhea, nausea, fever, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.

Image Source: Flickr Commons

Clostridium difficile   Image Source: AJC1 on Flickr

C. difficile may account for up to 14 000 deaths out of the 300 000 cases reported each year in the United States alone. Over the last decade, the number of infections has reached epidemic proportions. The major issue is that anyone taking broad-spectrum antibiotics is susceptible to this infection; antibiotics eliminate both harmful and healthy bacteria in the gut, leaving a patient vulnerable to contamination. The bacteria survive and are transmitted through feces, making outbreaks in hospitals common.

Numerous treatments have been proposed and tested, including vaccinations, antibiotics and fecal transplants. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has been the most effective method in reducing the recurrence of infection, but the process is costly and complex. The idea is to replace healthy gut flora in infected patients by using the gut bacteria from another person. First, screening for a healthy donor must take place. It is essential that donor testing is thorough, to reduce the spread of infection. The feces are then transplanted into the recipient’s lower gut, either by colonoscopy, enema or through the nose using a nasogastric tube. As a result of extremely high costs of these procedures, some patients have opted for the “do-it-yourself” method of transplantation. Most people who decide to do it themselves at home are not professionals, nor are they being held to the same standards as a hospital would be. Although there are many success stories, there has not been any research into the effectiveness or risks associated with the DIY method.

Some research shows over 90% of patients have been cured by FMT procedures conducted in hospitals. It is probably for this reason, along with the fact that there is a very low chance of patients experiencing any serious side effects during or after the procedure, that so many are turning to FMT as a long-term solution.

Here is a brief animation by MinuteEarth about fecal transplants:

YouTube Preview Image


A slightly more appealing technique may be the new poop pills, which can be taken orally like any other medication. The effects of these frozen fecal pills were monitored in a recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital. The results were very positive, and reinforced the conclusion that the fecal pills could be a viable option for patients. Since it has been shown that frozen and fresh fecal matter perform equally well, screenings and donations can be made before a patient actually needs it.

Image Source: e-Magine Art on Flickr

Variety of Pills  Image Source: e-Magine Art on Flickr

Many turn to antibiotics and medication to treat infection, but in this case, the cure may be all natural.

You can now say that you have been informed about the power of your poop!

– Anne Persson