Flies carry more diseases than first thought

Henrietta Strickland
November 26, 2017

In some cases, flies were carrying hundreds of different species of bacteria - many of which were harmful to humans, the scientists said.

If you already found the typical house fly or blowfly to be icky, well, get ready to find them a lot more gross. Both species also carried several separate types of bacteria in common.

Prof Schuster and his team of worldwide researchers suggest that sterile flies, bred in the absence of any micro-organisms, will be able to effectively pick up the latent microbiomes present when they are released into any environment.

DNA sequencing techniques were used to study the collection of microbes found in and on the bodies of the house fly (Musca domestica) and the blowfly (Chrysomya megacephala).

Among all the hundreds of bacteria found living in the flies' wings and legs, the researchers said that one of the most common pathogens was the Helicobacter pylori - which provokes ulcers in the gut.

"We believe that this [study] may show a mechanism for pathogen transmission that has been overlooked by public health officials, and flies may contribute to the rapid transmission of pathogens in outbreak situations", Donald Bryant of Penn State University told the BBC.

Out of the whole family of flies, major plant, animal, and human diseases are credited to House flies.

But a new study suggests the insects carry far more unsafe bacteria than previously thought, meaning sandwiches are best avoided if they have been contaminated by flies. According to them, they gathered the animals around three different continents. On the other hand, blowflies are the most common flies and are found near dead animals, slaughterhouses, rubbish dumps and similar such places. It might be better to have that picnic in the woods, far away from urban environments, than in a central park, suggested the researchers.

Flies may not be all bad, however.

Although the researchers stressed that houseflies and blowflies could be an even bigger cause for concern due to their disease-causing potential, they also noted that the creatures could be used as "early warning systems" for diseases caused by bacteria.

"In fact, the flies could be intentionally released as autonomous bionic drones into even the smallest spaces and crevices and, upon being recaptured, inform about any biotic material they have encountered", said Schuster.

Singapore Ministry of Education, the Singapore Center for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, and the United Nations supported this work.

While it might all seem a bit dramatic, experts behind the study published in the journal Scientific Reports said it might make people think twice about eating food that had been left out and exposed to flies and their diseases.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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