AUG 06, 2015 8:48 AM PDT

Tsetse Flies In Uganda Are No Match For New Blue Flytraps

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
A tsetse fly bite in rural Africa could cause Sleeping Sickness, but a new initiative in Uganda is successfully using blue flags to trap and kill these harmful vectors.

The flytraps are replaced twice a year, more often if washed away during a storm.
A small parasite, Trypanosoma brucei, is carried by a small proportion of tsetse flies in Africa. The parasite causes Sleeping Sickness, also known as African Trypanosomiasis, when humans or animals are bitten by a tsetse fly carrying the parasite. The infection can progress quickly or slowly, and initial symptoms are vague and relatively not alarming (fever, headache, malaise). The spread of the infection into the central nervous system causes more disturbing symptoms like personality changes, confusion, and sleep disruption. Sleeping Sickness can be fatal within months to three years (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Often Uganda natives with family members suffering from Sleeping Sickness don't understand what's happening to their loved ones. Even if they have access treatment, there's a small chance that they would even consider biomedicine as a cure for the disease. Beyond the 10,000 new cases of Sleeping Sickness recorded each year by the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC reports that "many cases go undiagnosed and unreported," an unfortunate statement since Sleeping Sickness can be cured if treatment is begun soon after infection. It is fatal is left untreated.

Cows and other animals can also be ravaged by sleeping sickness after receiving a bite from an infected tsetse fly.

The blue flags initiative to stop the spread of Sleeping Sickness through attacking the population of tsetse flies in Uganda has been successful because of the flies' unique attraction to the color blue. Entomologist Steve Torr says that the flies are attracted to blue since it "contrasts with the green vegetation." The flies gravitate toward the cloth because they see the blue traps as a potential target to bite. However, instead of finding a warm body, they find a flytrap smothered in insecticide waiting to kill them.

The traps are beneficial because they are inexpensive to produce, especially when the alternative is spraying large areas with insecticide. The latter approach is costly and dangerous to the environment.

The two-stage treatment medications for Sleeping Sickness are expensive to produce, but WHO has made multiple partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to ensure the treatment will be provided for free. Continuing to make these medicines easily available and along with the new blue flytrap initiative, the WHO will hopefully be enabled to achieve their goal of eliminating Sleeping Sickness as a public health problem by the end of 2020.

Source: NPR

This Animal Planet video describes a traveler's experience of Sleeping Sickness after being bitten by a tsetse fly.
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JAN 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 16, 2020
Self-healable Sweat Sensor Fears No Wear and Tear
Sweat can provide a lot of information about a person's health. One of the current trends in wearable technology is to incorporate sweat sensing mechan...
JAN 29, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 29, 2020
Feeling Bloated? A High-Fiber, Protein-Rich Diet May be to Blame
Did your new year’s resolution include opting for a healthier diet? When making changes to your diet, it’s important to be aware of possible si...
FEB 12, 2020
Health & Medicine
FEB 12, 2020
Brain Patients are Advancing Research
Neuroscientists may face the challenge of not having enough material or high-quality material to study the condition they’re researching. Luckily&mda...
FEB 15, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 15, 2020
FDA nod for AI-powered technology to detect strokes
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided clearance for a novel technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect strokes. The platf...
FEB 14, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 14, 2020
Beneath the Surface, We All Carry the Same Microbes in Our Skin
Our skin is a critical barrier, and it is made up of three layers. It also carries a community of microbes - a skin microbiome....
FEB 12, 2020
Cancer
FEB 12, 2020
Can we eradicate cervical cancer within a century?
Two studies recently published in The Lancet present evidence that the eradication of cervical cancer could be possible within the next century. The World ...
Loading Comments...