Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 12th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

A Deadly Meal

Repurposed drug called nitisinone kills disease-carrying tsetse flies without harming pollinators

04 March 2021

A Deadly Meal

These creatures are tsetse flies – biting insects that transmit the parasite causing sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis), which can be fatal for humans and animals. There is no vaccine so the best chance of controlling the disease is to get rid of the flies. However, the pesticides that are often used to kill tsetse flies also harm pollinating insects such as bees, so the hunt is on to find a more environmentally-friendly alternative. Researchers have discovered that an existing, safe drug called nitisinone can kill tsetse flies but doesn’t harm bees. It works by blocking the breakdown of a molecule called tyrosine, which is found in the blood on which tsetse flies feed. Tyrosine quickly builds up in treated flies and poisons them (right, compared with an untreated fly on the left). Giving people and animals nitisinone in areas affected by sleeping sickness could help to stop the spread of the disease.

Written by Kat Arney

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.