Flies carry more bacteria than first thought, warn scientists

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Flies carry more bacteria than first thought, warn scientists

The worldwide study, launched at Penn State Eberly College of Science in the United States, examined microbiomes on 116 houseflies and blowflies from three different continents.

Dr Ana Carolina Martins Junqueira, first author of the paper and an entomologist (insect expert) at NTU, said flies are an important part of nature's ecosystem as they are also pollinators like bees. Blowflies, which tend to be more prevalent in tropical regions, carried slightly less, with a total of 316 different microbes.

Prof Schuster and his team of global 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. 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.

"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", said Donald Bryant, Ernest C. Pollard Professor of Biotechnology and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Penn State.

Houseflies and blowflies were found to transmit the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, as it "stuck" to their legs and wings when flying between their breeding and feeding grounds.

While it is well-known that flies spread bacteria, new research suggests that they carry far more germs than previously thought, many of which are harmful to humans. This led scientists to conclude that flies carry more diseases than suspected.

Carrion fly species like blowflies and houseflies are exposed to unhygienic material because they use faeces and decaying organic matter to nurture their young.

People had some notion that there were pathogens that were carried by flies but had no idea of the extent to which this is true and the extent to which they are transferred.

The reserachers used advanced genomic and computational methods to come up with results.

Flies may not be all bad, however.

So, even though house flies have gathered human, animal and plant diseases, they can also help scientists by becoming small bionic drones. In fact, it's better to throw away food contaminated by flies.

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

After all of this, the researchers said that public health officials might have overlooked the animals to note them as a source of disease outbreaks.

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