MSU plan would control deadly tsetse fly

May 07, 2012
The tsetse fly kills people and livestock in Africa. A containment plan by Michigan State University researchers would be more effective and cheaper than current control methods. Credit: Michigan State University

For the first time, scientists have created a satellite-guided plan to effectively control the tsetse fly – an African killer that spreads "sleeping sickness" disease among humans and animals and wipes out $4.5 billion in livestock every year.

Michigan State University researchers developed the plan using a decade's worth of NASA satellite images of Kenyan landscape and by monitoring movement. With unprecedented precision, the plan can tell where and when to direct eradication efforts.

Current control efforts in Kenya are ineffective and waste money by targeting tsetse-free areas, said Joseph Messina, associate professor of geography. Messina is lead researcher on the project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to attack the tsetse fly.

"Our model dramatically reduces the cost of controlling the tsetse, and it's more effective," Messina said.

This is a tsetse fly target in Kenya. The sheets of dark cloth are coated with the scent of livestock to attract the tsetse and insecticide to kill it. Credit: Michigan State University

If applied, the plan would be effective in all of East Africa and other areas of the continent consisting of savannah, Messina said. The tsetse, which feeds on the blood of vertebrate animals, lives in 37 sub-Saharan countries and infects thousands of people and millions of cattle every year, affecting primarily the rural poor.

Funding for large-scale tsetse control has dropped significantly in the past 25 years, as has optimism that sleeping sickness – technically known as African trypanosomiasis – can be contained.

The Kenyan government would need an estimated $100 million to run tsetse control efforts in its targeted containment areas. The problem: It doesn't have nearly that much money and the government containment area is highly imprecise, Messina said.

The MSU plan would cost as little as $14.2 million. The plan relies on the use of targets – which are sheets of dark-colored cloth sprayed with insecticide – in more strategic areas. Targets are highly effective and the most environmentally friendly control method, said MSU researcher Paul McCord.

Current government strategy includes using targets and aerial spraying, but the spraying kills off beneficial species such as honey bees.

"They've been trying to the tsetse for more than 100 years," Messina said, "but nothing has worked on a large-scale basis."

The MSU plan is based on a simulation that uses satellite readings every two weeks dating back to 2002. The plan takes into account a host of factors – including temperature, amount of vegetation, tsetse lifespan and location of cattle and other animals – to predict where the fly will be and when it will be there, McCord said.

Explore further: The economics of newly graduated veterinarians

More information: The plan is highlighted in the May issue of the research journal Applied Geography.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lactating tsetse flies models for lactating mammals?

Apr 18, 2012

An unprecedented study of intra-uterine lactation in the tsetse fly, published 18 April 2012 in Biology of Reproduction's Papers-in-Press, reveals that an enzyme found in the fly's milk functions similarly in ...

Nuclear science to fight sleeping sickness

Nov 27, 2009

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday announced an agreement to help African nations battle the tsetse fly, the main carrier of parasites that causes sleeping sickness with its bites.

Recommended for you

Keep dogs and cats safe during winter

10 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Winter can be tough on dogs and cats, but there are a number of safe and effective ways you can help them get through the cold season, an expert says.

Scientists target mess from Christmas tree needles

Dec 26, 2014

The presents are unwrapped. The children's shrieks of delight are just a memory. Now it's time for another Yuletide tradition: cleaning up the needles that are falling off your Christmas tree.

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Dec 26, 2014

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

Research sheds light on what causes cells to divide

Dec 24, 2014

When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.