Scientists hope to turn the tables on bedbugs after unravelling their genetic make-up.
The bloodsucking insects have recently undergone a major resurgence around the world, with some experts fearing a bedbug pandemic.
In parts of the UK infestations have tripled in the last decade, according to local authority figures.
Now experts in the US hope the first detailed genetic study of bedbugs will reveal chinks in their armour and lead to new methods of pest control.
Study author Dr Omprakash Mittapalli, from Ohio State University, said: “While bedbugs are poised to become one of the major household pests across the United States in the coming years, we know very little about their genetic make-up and their mechanisms of resistance to insecticides.
“This is the first study to elucidate the genetic make-up of the insect and obtain fundamental molecular knowledge regarding potential defence pathways and genes that may be involved in metabolic resistance to commonly used pesticides.”
International travel, the exchange of used furniture and a shift away from powerful but dangerous insecticides such as DDT have all contributed to the rise of the bedbug.
In addition, bedbug populations have developed strong resistance to currently used pesticides such as pyrethroids.
The scientists analysed the DNA of both laboratory-reared bedbugs susceptible to pesticides and “wild” bedbugs collected from an apartment in Columbus, Ohio.
They identified two genes that may play a role in pesticide resistance. The research is published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.