RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Ivermectin might work better against bed bugs than it does against COVID-19.

A study from North Carolina State University looked at the effectiveness of two drugs — including ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medication that became popular among some vaccine opponents during the pandemic despite being proven ineffective against the virus — against bed bugs on poultry farms.

“The bed bug is a globally important insect,” said Coby Schal, a professor of entomology at N.C. State and the paper’s corresponding author.“The last few decades have seen a resurgence of bed bugs in homes, and now we’re seeing bed bugs return to poultry farms. Since there is no proven method to stop bed bugs in commercial farms, the potential problems on poultry farms could be massive. We’re trying to get ahead of it by developing technologies that can eliminate bed bugs.” 

The other drug involved in the study — fluralaner, which is used to kill fleas and ticks on household pets — showed strong potential. 

Entomologists and veterinary scientists at N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine teamed up to determine the mortality rates for those pests in different experiments, including after the bed bugs consumed blood mixed with the drugs on the lab bench, and after they bit and fed off chickens that had been treated with the drugs.

Both were effective on the lab bench, the study found, with fluralaner performing more effectively on the bugs that were resistant to common insecticides. 

Fluralaner did a much better job of killing the bugs that fed on chickens that were treated with it, while ivermectin was ineffective against the bugs feeding on dosed chickens.

Adding fluralaner to the chickens’ drinking water could be effective in killing the pests, researchers say, adding that combining the drug with monitoring, education and heat treatments could be key in getting rid of them from infested poultry farms.