Blood-Sucking Flies May Help Fight Infectious Diseases

shutterstock_2614192102028129Blood-sucking flies might be the newest way to identify emerging infectious diseases in wild animals before they spread to humans.

A team of researchers have discovered that these flies can act as ‘flying syringes’ because pathogens such as malaria are preserved in the blood meals of flies.

These blood meals could be used as an indirect, non-invasive way of studying the circulation of pathogens in wild animals, improving scientists’ ability to identify and control the global outbreak of new and re-emerging infections including the Ebola and Zika viruses.

There are seven new pathogens identified worldwide each year and that number is predicted to reach 15 to 20 annually by 2020 due to increased human contact with wildlife species that are potential reservoirs of disease.

Despite significant scientific advances, researchers are unable to predict where, when and how epidemics arise.

“This is a huge public health issue that urgently requires new tools for the active monitoring of outbreaks and rapid diagnosis of the pathogens involved,” senior author and evolutionary geneticist Franck Prugnolle, from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Montpellier, France, said in a statement. “We wanted to investigate whether blood-feeding insects could act as a sampling tool out in the wild environment, allowing us to monitor the presence and emergence of infectious disease.”


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