New insights into how insects communicate
Tsetse flies are vectors of trypanosomes that cause human and animal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. Historically these flies and the trypanosomes they transmit have had extremely detrimental effects on the health and development of this region. Despite more than a century of tsetse research, volatile sex pheromones have not been identified.
In a new study, Yale scientists identified a volatile pheromone emitted by the tsetse fly. The finding provides fresh information on how flies communicate with one another and may lead to new approaches to managing fly populations and the dangerous diseases they transmit.
When the Tsetse flies bite humans or animals, they transmit parasites called African trypanosomes, spreading diseases such as African sleeping sickness, which can be fatal to humans, and nagana, a disease that affects livestock and other animals.
John Carlson, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and senior study author, said, “African sleeping sickness is a dreadful disease that’s hard to treat. Our immune systems have difficulty clearing trypanosomes, and most of the drugs we have to kill them are toxic. And nagana, which affects livestock, has had terrible economic impacts in the region.”