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Your Worst Nightmare: Cockroaches May Soon Evolve to Become Impossible to Kill

Following a six-month study period where they were unable to reduce cockroach numbers, researchers found that the insects' resistance went up to six-fold within one generation.

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Updated:July 4, 2019, 11:28 AM IST
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Your Worst Nightmare: Cockroaches May Soon Evolve to Become Impossible to Kill
Super roaches | Image credit: Reuters

A new study, conducted by researchers from the Department of Entomology at Purdue University has found that German cockroaches are developing cross-resistance to numerous insecticides, following a six-month study period where they were unable to reduce cockroach numbers. Instead, researchers found that the insects' resistance went up to six-fold within one generation.

Speaking about it, lead author of the study Michael Scharf said in a statement, "We didn’t have a clue that something like that could happen this fast."

The results of the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports saw Scharf saying, "This is a previously unrealized challenge in cockroaches,” adding, “Cockroaches developing resistance to multiple classes of insecticides at once will make controlling these pests almost impossible with chemicals alone.”

In the course of the study, researchers trained different treatments of three insecticides, abamectin, boric acid, and thiamethoxam – in numerous cockroach-infested apartments across Indiana and Illinois.

In one treatment, three different insecticides were rotated each month for three months and then repeated. In a second, they used two insecticides from different classes for six months. In the third, they chose one insecticide to which cockroaches had low-level starting resistance.

Regardless of the different chemical combinations, the researchers were unable to reduce the size of their population. In fact, subsequent lab tests showed that a considerable share of the cockroaches and their offspring had become “essentially immune” to pesticide.

Notably, female cockroaches have a three-month reproductive cycle during which they can have up to 50 offspring. Thus, even if a small percentage of cockroaches are resistant to an insecticide and they gain cross-resistance, a population tackled by a treatment could bounce back and thrive within months.

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