New Defense Against Sheep Parasite May Be Possible
The genome of the blowfly has been mapped by a team of researchers from University of Melbourne and Baylor college, with significant funding from Australian Wool Innovation. This little pest is responsible for high costs to sheep ranchers, because maggots from the blowfly will invade open wounds in the hoofed animals, causing severe and difficult to treat skin diseases.
The blowfly has 14,544 genes and the new research identified 2000 never before seen in any other organism. The research is part of ongoing efforts by the U.S National Human Genome Research Institute to create genome maps of a wide variety of life forms.
The potential that the genome map brings with it is the ability to effectively battle myiasis or “flystrike” in sheep. The parasite is aggressive and causes suffering to the animal, in addition to significant economic losses for ranchers.
The blowfly is particularly talented at evolving resistance to pesticides, so having a detailed blueprint of its genetic structure and function may open the door to developing effective pesticide treatments. Although significant funding has been dedicated to fighting flystrike, nothing has worked well, and this new data on the blowfly’s biological programming may be the key to defeating an especially nasty pest.