Man Against Fly – So Far, It’s Tsetse 2, Mankind 0
By Shlomo Maital
It has just been announced that the genome of the tsetse fly (prounced: Te-tzee) has been decoded, by an international team of scientists. Like some international fashion model, the ugly fly has made the cover of Science magazine.
The tsetse fly is the scourge of Africa. It lives on human blood, and unlike the mosquito (only the female drinks human blood), both male and female tsetse flies imbibe human and animal blood. The tsetse fly spreads human encephalitis (sleeping sickness) and a disease that afflicts cattle. The suffering and economic losses are huge.
Evolution has created some amazing innovations in the tsetse fly. For one, unlike other flies and insects, the tsetse fly gives birth to live offspring, only about 8 of them. The female tsetse fly deposits eggs in its ovaries, and then secretes a milk-like substance to feed them. When the tiny flies are ready, they are born, full-fledged.
So far, efforts to combat this scourge in Africa have been unsuccessful. But now that the tsetse genome has been decoded, scientists can look for a weak point, perhaps genetically altering a gene to hamper reproduction.
So far, however, it is tsetse fly 2, mankind zero. In this battle, mankind against the wisdom of evolution, mankind is definitely the underdog.