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Research on flies may help better understand disease in humans

Scientists have mapped the genome of the common house fly and given valuable insight into our own immune systems.

Research on flies may help better understand disease in humans

With the genome of the house fly recently uncovered, one of the biggest and most important findings has been their complicated and powerful immune system.

Home to hundreds of diseases and infections such as anthrax, tuberculosis, cholera and salmonella, scientists have found that these pesky insects are great at fighting what they cause, having developed a strong immunity to these illnesses.

“Anything that comes out of an animal, such as bacteria and viruses, house flies can take from that waste and deposit on your sandwich… House flies are the movers of any disgusting pathogenic microorganism you can think of,” told lead author of the paper published in Genome Biology, Jeff Scott.

However the uncovering of the genome has shown the immune response and defence genes present in these flies which are used to combat what they carry.

With further research on these genes, scientists are growing optimistic that they will be able to extract this DNA and use it for vaccines and treatments.

“If you think of the genome like a phone book, we now have the phone number of every gene. We can now study every gene. For any scientific question, we have a highway to get us there,” said Scott.

Additionally, the study has found detoxification genes in the flies that are responsible for producing proteins that break down waste. Greater understanding of this could improve in the handling of human waste which could in turn improve our environment.

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