Dirty laundry could be to blame for worsening global bed bug epidemic

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Bed bugs are known to be prolific international travelers.

They’re not picky, and are just as likely to be found in rural villages in developing countries as they are to be noticed in luxury hotels in Toronto, New York or Paris, with their populations spreading rapidly in North America and Europe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To make things worse, the blood-thirsty critters may be developing a resistance to common insecticides, making them exceptionally difficult to get rid of.

READ MORE: Here are Canada’s Top 10 bed bug infested cities

But the simple act of putting away your dirty laundry while traveling could go a long way towards curbing the spread of these minuscule monsters, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

For the study, researchers from the University of Sheffield set up two identical rooms in which two bags of soiled clothes and two bags of clean clothes were placed in the vicinity of bedbugs.

They found that the blood-thirsty critters were twice as likely to congregate on soiled clothes as opposed to clean ones. This is likely because the presence of human odor on dirty clothes prompts “host-seeking” behaviour on the part of the bedbugs.

WATCH: Ask an Expert: Bed bugs

“Bed bugs are a huge problem for hotel and homeowners, particularly in some of the world’s biggest and busiest cities,” said lead researcher Dr. William Hentley. “Once a room is infested with bed bugs, they can be very difficult to get rid of, which can result in people having to dispose of clothes and furniture that can be really costly.”

“Our study suggests that keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag, particularly when staying in a hotel, could reduce the chances of people taking bed bugs home with them, which may reduce the spread of infestations.”

So the next time you’re traveling and find yourself tempted to fling away your dirty socks and t-shirt on the floor of your hotel room before crashing, think again.

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