Breakthrough against tsetse fly6th April 2010
Scientists in Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast may soon have a way of trapping and killing tsetse flies, which spread sleeping sickness.
The method they propose uses scents to attract the insects.
Other researchers have had the same idea, but no one has ever come up with the right scent.
The researchers found some of the aromas in human bodies that lure the flies in the first place, as well as finding which animal scents attract the flies.
As a species, the tsetse fly's range includes vast areas of sub-Saharan Africa that add up to about 10,000,000 square kilometres.
The flies transmit parasites known as trypanosomes, a protozoan related to the parasite that causes Kala Azar, also known as leishmaniasis.
There are currently no drugs that treat sleeping sickness.
Remedies currently on offer can have fatal side effects in humans, and the parasites are resistant to them.
Because there are no medicinal remedies for the parasite that the tsetse fly transmits, researchers believe that the best option would be for people to use traps to catch and kill the insects.
Study co-author Michael Lehane, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, said that he is currently working with the African research team to identify attractants for the species that cause sleeping sickness in humans, and so help to make the control devices more cost-effective.
The most dangerous tsetse fly species are found in Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast, there they live next to rivers.
The researchers found that some of these highly dangerous flies are only attracted to cows, whereas others are attracted to both cows and humans, and still others are attracted to both pigs and humans.
When the research team used test aromas derived from cows, pigs, or humans on the flies, they were able to attract five times more flies than before.
Now, the researchers need to determine precisely which odours are attracting the flies.
Lead author Jean Baptiste-Rayaisse from the International Centre of Research and Development on Breeding in Sub-Humid Areas (CIRDES) in Burkina Faso said that his team's results showed that attractants could improve catches by up to three times for the most deadly type of fly.
He said that he hoped the research would make controlling tsetse flies more cost effective by reducing the number of traps that need to be manufactured.
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