NPMA Technical Update: The Importance of Bed Bug Salivary Glands
Drs. Jerome Goddard and Kristine Edwards of Mississippi State University have investigated the effects of bed bug saliva on human skin. Secretions from salivary glands have long been thought to be the cause of dermal reactions among certain people bitten by bed bugs, but there was insufficient supporting evidence. The scientists were able to demonstrate the role of saliva by removing the salivary glands of bed bugs and allowing them to feed on a person known to produce a dermal reaction upon being bitten. Although the volunteer could feel the bite of a bed bug that lacked salivary glands, the bug was unable to feed and her skin did not react as it did to a normal bed bug bite. In a second experiment, a salivary extract was prepared from bed bugs and applied topically to the volunteer's skin. Within 36 hours, the volunteer reported itching and a visible dermal reaction. This research presents strong evidence that salivary glands are important to both feeding and likely contain allergens that can cause adverse reactions in victims.
This paper, "Effects of Bed Bug Saliva on Human Skin", was published in the American Medical Association Journal of Dermatology in March of 2013.