Study: Blood-sucking flies may be able to track emerging infectious diseases

Blood-sucking flies may be used to track emerging infectious diseases in wild animals before they are transmitted to humans, according to a new study published in eLife.

Approximately seven new infectious disease pathogens are discovered around the world annually. This number is expected to more than double by 2020 as human interaction with wildlife, which can be reservoirs for disease, increases.

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To determine whether tracking the blood meals of certain flies could be a viable technique for monitoring infectious disease among wild animal populations, researchers spent 16 weeks trapping flies in the forests of central Africa and testing them for the presence of malaria. Of the more than 4,000 flies captured in total, 30 percent were engorged with blood after feeding on an animal.

The research team was able to determine the host of approximately 75 percent of the engorged flies' blood meals. Host animals included 20 different species ranging from elephants to birds. Researchers also detected malaria parasites in 9 percent of the blood meals —18 cases of which were previously unidentified strains of malaria.

"This study demonstrates that using hematophagous flies as 'flying syringes' constitutes an interesting approach to investigate blood-borne pathogen diversity in wild vertebrates and could be used as an early detection tool of zoonotic pathogens," wrote the study's authors.

More articles on infection control: 
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3 DMC hospitals submit correction plans to CMS after sterilization, infection control-focused inspection

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