tsetse flies

Running Head: ERADICATION OF TSETSE FLIES

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ERADICATION OF TSETSE FLIES

The only available means of tsetse fly eradication in Sub Saharan Africa is through continuation of Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) radiation-induced technique. The method has been applied successfully in Zanzibar where in the last six years there has been no recorded case of tsetse fly, sleeping sickness or nagana. This has resulted in increased milk production, increased local beef production while use of manure as fertilizer has increased the farm output. Despite this, many regions in sub-Saharan Africa are infested with tsetse fly that cause sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in livestock with World Health Organization estimating to be about 60 at risk of infection. The most affected areas are those that are characterized by poverty and starvation which indicates that they are most marginalized when it comes to eradication of tsetse fly. As a means of improving agriculture to fight starvation and poverty in these areas, it is important to continue with the SIT technique of eliminating tsetse fly so that the countries affected will become self sufficient and therefore not depend on donations from developed countries.

SIT involves reducing the number of tsetse flies in a particular area using traditional techniques like traps and insecticides to about ten percent original population. Male tsetse flies are meanwhile raised under sterilization in laboratories. Sterilization is achieved through exposure of tsetse flies to gamma radiations from cobalt-60 source. The sterile male flies are then released to these target areas and eventually the remaining population dies since the male flies are not capable of fertilizing females. This is also largely successful because female flies mate only a few times in their life and so if it mates with a  sterile fly, it is prevented from giving rise to offspring which reduces the population of the flies and eventually they will be eradicated.

As Gooding and Krafsur in 2005 put across, SIT is the only technique that has been discovered and it gives results. Slaughtering of wild animals has been used to eradicate the food source of the flies which then dies due to starvation. However, such cases have been discouraged because there is a high likelihood of re-invasion and also the wildlife movement aimed at stopping their killing of wildlife. Clearing of land which has also been previously used has proven to be difficult because it would require constant clearing of woody trunks and vegetation which is only possible if there is human habitats in an area. Use of pesticides has been used to control tsetse flies but because of environmental pollution their use is discouraged. There is also a high probability of the flies developing resistance to the chemicals used which would mean that pesticides will have to be improved every once in a while making this technique expensive. Traps have been effective in fly control where colorful traps are used to attract the fly or use of attractants which can be natural or artificial. The attractants lure the insect to the trap which is then killed by the pesticide that is sprayed onto the trap cloth. Drugs used for prevention or treatment of sleeping sickness are too toxic and are often hard to administer because they are expensive and the population is mainly poor. To date, scientists have not come up with any vaccine that can be sued in humans or livestock since the flies are developing resistance to drugs that are available. The only other method that can be combined with SIT is use of parasite refractory strains where a blood meal with trypanocide is given to the sterile males before they are released. Cytoplasmic incompatibility can also be an effective means of controlling tsetse fly population especially in this era of genetic engineering.

This program can only be effective if the countries affected by tsetse flies stop relying on donor funds. Many developing countries are channeling their funds elsewhere like in fighting terrorism and in helping set up governments in countries that have no central rule leaving very little or no money for running such campaigns. SIT is an expensive methodology for eradicating tsetse flies and as it has been witnessed for it to be effective it has to run for a long time so that the flies can be controlled and eventually eradicated. Many SIT programs that have been in existence fail when donors pull out. It is important thus for governments to incorporate SIT budget in national budget so that the program sails through. Governments should also indicate areas that need eradication of tsetse flies so that the technique is utilized only in critical areas to save on funds.

In conclusion, eradicating tsetse flies would improve the economy of sub-Saharan Africa which would also influence world’s economy because the people will become self reliant and they will use money meant for food on other areas like health improvement. Instead of criticizing the SIT method, scientists should come up with a more effective way to control tsetse flies without adverse effects to the population or the environment. It is the responsibility of the affected governments to come up with ways through which to support the SIT since it has been successfully applied in Zanzibar to eradicate tsetse flies.

 

References

Gooding, R. H. and Krafsur, E. S. (2005) TSETSE GENETICS: Contributions to Biology, Systematics, and Control of Tsetse Flies. Annual Review of Entomology, 50(1), 101-123, DOI: 10.1146/annurev.ento.50.071803.130443

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