Scientists said Thursday they have cracked the genetic code of the tsetse fly, potentially helping to tackle one of sub-Saharan Africa´s most devastating livestock diseases as well as human sleeping sickness.
“Decoding the tsetse fly´s DNA is a major scientific breakthrough,” said Kostas Bourtzis from a joint body of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency which sequenced the genome in a 10-year international effort.
He said it “opens the way for more effective control of trypanosomiasis, which is good news for millions of herders and farmers in sub-Saharan Africa”.
Found only in Africa, bloodsucking tsetse flies are vectors for the parasites that cause trypanosomiasis, or nagana, an often-lethal disease that affects some three million animals each year.
Humans bitten by carrier flies can develop African sleeping sickness, which can be fatal without treatment.
No vaccine exists for either livestock or humans.