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Woman sleeps with bedbugs for 5 years in name of science

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(PIX11) - A woman invited the tiny creatures of every New Yorker's nightmare into her bed for five years -- all in the name of discovering an effective bedbug repellent.

Simon Fraser University biologist Regine Gries sacrificed her skin to the blood suckers night after night in hopes of understanding how bedbugs communicate, and using it against them.

Gries and her husband Gerhard, who is also a biologist, are working with chemist Robert Britton to analyze their behavior.  After years of waking up with a rash -- Gries says she's one of the lucky few who do not itch from the bites -- the team made a breakthrough.

They discovered that bedbugs can communicate with odors, one may be used like a dinner bell -- to announce fresh meat -- and another as a siren or sorts, to warn of danger.

The challenge was figuring out how to recreate the odors.

One smell which brought bedbugs scurrying out of hiding expecting food worked perfectly in a laboratory, but not in test apartments in Vancouver.  After reworking the formula, they discovered that there was one chemical that effectively repelled bedbugs -- histamine.

While histamine stops the bugs in their tracks, the scientists say they have five other odors that attract bedbugs and can potentially be used to draw them into traps.

The team is now working on a formula that can be sold commercially.

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