After 10 years of effort, a team led by scientists at Yale has finally decoded the genes of the tsetse fly, a bloodsucking scourge of Africa. With that knowledge, they hope to find new ways to repel or kill the insects, whose bite transmits sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease that, like rabies, drives its victims mad before they lapse into a coma and die. The flies also carry nagana, which weakens or kills cattle and renders whole regions of Africa inhospitable to most livestock.
it is a major cause of disease, but the real benefit would be to open large amounts of land so that it can be farmed.
Get rid of the tsetse fly and bring in irrigation, and Africa could feed the world. which is why China is buying up farmland and investing in Africa.
Tsetsefly collars for cattle? this Xinhua news story of a European funded initiative to stop cattle deaths:
and that story notes why this is important
Since time immemorial livestock farmers in most parts of Kenya have been forced to lighting fires to smoke away tsetse flies every day.
The well to do farmers have been using drugs (trypanocides) to help repel the flies away from the grazing fields and within the homesteads.
Because of this circumstance, the farmers have been forced to graze their livestock late in the morning hence completely avoiding early and late evening grazing everyday when tsetse flies, a routine that is hard to keep given that livestock especially cattle feed a lot.
But in a bid to help farmers solved this menace, the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) has developed a repellent collar that is tied around the animal's neck and in the process repels tsetse flies.
"The repellents have been identified from odors of animals avoided by tsetse, like the waterbuck, a big antelope species that is common in tsetse-infested areas of eastern Africa but which is rarely fed on by the flies," the Principal Investigator of the project Dr. Rajinder Saini said.
He noted that these repellent collars slowly dispense the chemicals in them, thereby protecting the animals and their herders from the flies.
Saini observed that the disease levels in protected cattle had been reduced by more than 90 percent and that repellent collars performed better than traditional traps that had been used by the institution in areas such as Lambwe Valley in Homa bay County.
These flies carry the trypanosome parasites that cause human African trypanosomosis, commonly called sleeping sickness, and the livestock disease nagana.
The problem of tsetse and trypanosomosis thus lies at the heart of Africa's struggle against poverty.
About 60 million people are at risk of getting sleeping sickness in Africa and more than 300,000 are infected yearly, of whom 95 percent do not receive any treatment because of the remoteness of the affected areas.
Trypanosomosis currently causes annual losses of some 1.5 billion US dollars and over the long run has had the effect of limiting Africa's agricultural income to some 4.5 billion dollars a year below its potential level.
About 3 million cattle die annually due to the disease. The flies are one of the main reasons why 80 percent of the continent's land is still tilled by hand due to the absence of draught-power.
Few livestock also implies less availability of manure that could be used as organic fertilizer, consequently leading to lower yields of crop and fodder plants.
Almost more than any other disease affecting people and livestock, trypanosomosis thus straddles the ground between human health, livestock health and agricultural production, and thus rural development.
radiation has also been used to control the fly. from the VOA
After the sterilization, a plane spreads thousands of non-productive tsetse flies every Wednesday in various parts of Ethiopia, especially along riverbed breeding grounds. So far, more than a million laboratory flies have been released. Now sterilized flies outnumber fertile flies, eight to one.