Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Friend or Foe
27 September 2017

Friend or Foe

Zoonotic diseases – affecting both humans and animals – are a global health problem. Around 60% of recently-emerging infectious diseases have spread from wildlife, so finding better to ways to track and control these conditions in animals is critical to preventing epidemics in humans. Current monitoring techniques, such as testing trapped animals and sampling from bushmeat, can be difficult to implement and provide limited access to wild populations. One new proposal to better assess diseases in the wild is to use blood-sucking flies like the tsetse (pictured), harnessing their potential as natural 'flying syringes'. Researchers tested this idea by analysing the blood meals of thousands of flies in Gabon: they were able to identify which species they had fed on and detect the presence of malarial parasites. As techniques for analysing pathogens in blood continue to improve, blood-sucking flies, so often the cause of devastating diseases, could contribute to an innovative solution.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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