IBERS lecturer research advances on the Tsetse fly

DR MARTIN Swain of Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), is one of the authors of a paper published recently in the prestigious journal Science on the completion of the genetic code of the Tsetse fly.

Dr. Martin Swain

Dr. Martin Swain

Human African trypanosomiasis – or sleeping sickness – is widely carried by the Tsetse fly and can be fatal if not treated. The disease affects the brain and the spinal cord and is transmitted via a small parasite carried by some Tsetse flies.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 70 million people in the poorest countries in the world are under threat from the disease. Recent years have seen endemics in areas where it was thought the disease had been eradicated.

Detection and treatment of trypanosomiasis is expensive, difficult and dangerous. Disease prevention by vaccine development does not appear feasible due to the ability of trypanosomes to evade the mammalian immune system.

The genome is an important resource for evolutionary biology as Tsetse flies are unique in multiple aspects of their biology.

Dr Swain is one of over 140 scientists specialising in a wide array of topics important to understanding the biology of the tsetse fly.

He said: “The information contained within the genome provides a foundational resource which will be invaluable to the tsetse and insect vector (carrier) biology communities. Access to this information will accelerate research on tsetse’s basic biology.

“The outcomes of this research can then be applied to improving current tsetse control methods and the development of new strategies with an emphasis upon improving effectiveness and cost reduction.”

The paper, “Genome Sequence of the Tsetse Fly (Glossina morsitans): Vector of African Trypanosomiasis”, is available online.