Nairobi, 24 April 2014 – Scientists at the Nairobi, Kenya, based ICIPE are among the researchers who have mapped the genome of the tsetse fly transmitting sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in livestock.  The results of the $10m tsetse fly genome project were published in the journal Science.

According to the World Health Organization up to 20,000 people are infected by tsetse transited parasites causing sleeping sickness while Africa population at risk reaches 70m spread in 36.

Genome has virus DNA
Dan Masiga, head of the Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics unit at ICIPE says that another genetic finding that has potential for tsetse fly control is the discovery of virus DNA material that is closely related to viruses found in parasitic wasps known as Cotesia congregate.

In a blog on the website of Wellcome Trust, Masiga says that the virus DNA might have been inserted into the tsetse fly genome at an earlier stage of the species’ development, when the fly hadn’t yet a system of hatching its eggs in the uterus.

Masiga also pointed to the discovery of olfactory receptors in the genome that trigger ‘mating deterrence’ from females as just one other example of a potential tool in tsetse control.

Tsetse flies also carry symbiotic parasitic organisms in their bodies, which could also be manipulated to reduce the reproductive cycle. One such organism is Wigglesworthia glossinidia, without which females often abort their larval offspring. Offspring that are born are immune compromised. Data from the project is hosted by Vectorbase (www.vectorbase.com)