News / Africa

Scientists Decode Tsetse Fly Genome

Dead tsetse flies are seen in a laboratory run by the International Livestock Research Institute in Ghibe Valley, 115 miles southwest of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 1, 2002. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Dead tsetse flies are seen in a laboratory run by the International Livestock Research Institute in Ghibe Valley, 115 miles southwest of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 1, 2002. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Scientists have mapped the genetic code of the tsetse fly, the insect responsible for African sleeping sickness.  They said the findings could lead to better repellents and control efforts and boost vaccine research.
 
The World Health Organization reports African sleeping sickness occurs in 36 sub-Saharan countries. The bite of a tsetse fly transmits parasites that could eventually reach the central nervous system causing confusion, sensory problems and poor coordination. It also disrupts the sleep cycle giving the disease its name.
 
The WHO said drug treatment is “complex,” but without it the disease is usually fatal. Efforts to control tsetse populations brought the number of new cases below 10,000 for the first time in 2009. In 2012, just over 7,200 new cases were reported.
 
Serap Aksoy is a professor of epidemiology of microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health. She and her colleagues in the U.S., Africa and elsewhere began searching the tsetse fly’s DNA for its genetic code 10 years ago. The WHO provided initial funding. In all, the project cost $10 million.
 
“The genetic code is the blueprint of the fly that is responsible for making all the proteins that are involved in all of its functions, essentially. These are involved in every aspect of the fly’s essential structure and function. They’re basically the parts list that an organism is made from,” said Aksoy.
 
African sleeping sickness is the name given when the disease affects people. When found in animals it’s called Nagana.
 
“Sleeping sickness, along with Nagana, have hindered public health and development of agriculture in Africa for centuries. This is a very neglected disease and hence limited amounts of research funds have gone into the study of this insect and this disease. So, we’re really excited that this will be a breakthrough for control,” she said.
 
The genome could help researchers better understand just how functions within the tsetse fly work.
 
She said, “These included, for example, olfaction, which determines smell. What we call gustation, which is taste, vision, reproduction, digestion, blood feeding, immunity and symbiosis. So, these were the kind of things, which we felt represented bottlenecks in [the] fly’s biology. And as we decoded the genome we particularly looked for proteins involved in these processes.”
 
Olfaction is important, for example, because one of the best ways to control the flies is with traps. These traps use different scents to attract them.
 
“There are many such traps that have been developed for tsetse flies. But they are not necessarily all efficient at the same rate and not available for some of the important species that transmit the human disease. Scientists can now make better traps that would be more efficient in attracting flies or they can make repellents that may be put on animals on people,” she said.
 
Aksoy said it’s not clear whether the research could lead to better treatment drugs. But, she says, the information could help vaccine development. She added the research has led to the training of many young African scientists, who will further study the tsetse fly genome.
 
Genome research currently is underway for other parasitic diseases, including leishmaniasis, trypanosomiasis and Chagas.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid