Flies may already be a nuisance as it is to the average person, but new research suggests that two common species — houseflies and blowflies — might be deadlier than suspected in terms of the diseases they potentially carry.
Based on the findings of a new study from Pennsylvania State University, houseflies and blowflies combine to carry over 600 different forms of bacteria. According to BBC News, a lot of these organisms are associated with stomach ailments, pneumonia, blood poisoning, and other types of human infections. And while it might not be surprising that flies use their legs, feet, and wings to transmit microbes, the study also suggests that each step a fly takes could possibly have them spreading live bacteria to humans.
Using DNA sequencing, the researchers analyzed the various microbes found in houseflies (Musca domestica) and blowflies (Chrysomya megacephala), collecting 116 of both species from habitats around the world, including those in the United States, Brazil, and Singapore. Newsweek added that samples were taken from urban and rural sites alike, as well as from a colony of captive-bred blowflies spanning 20 generations.
All in all, the researchers were able to count a total of 351 types of bacteria found in houseflies, which are common in practically every part of the world. Blowflies, which tend to be more prevalent in tropical regions, carried slightly less, with a total of 316 different microbes. Both species also carried several separate types of bacteria in common.
Speaking to BBC News, Penn State University professor and study co-author Donald Bryant said that most people aren’t aware of how many diseases flies can potentially spread through the microbes found inside and on their bodies. He added that houseflies and blowflies might have been overlooked by public health officials as possible causes of previous disease outbreaks.
“We believe that this 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.”
Typically, one can find houseflies feeding on rotting food, feces, and animal corpses, or scavenging for food in piles of garbage. Blowflies, on the other hand, are commonly spotted around meat processing plants, slaughterhouses, and garbage dumps. Like houseflies, blowflies can also be found around dead animals, BBC News wrote.
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. Nanyang Technical University research director Stephan Schuster added that they could even be used as “living drones” that could search for microbes by flying into tight nooks and crannies.
“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.
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