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Flies Can Be More Dangerous Than You Think

Flies Can Be More Dangerous Than You Think

Flies are definitely not the kind of animals you would like to see in your home. Not only are they disgusting – they can also be reservoirs for microbes. A recent research showed that flies are more dangerous than it had been supposed. And here is why.

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Everyone knows that rinsing fruits and vegetables is a must, since the chances flies have already contaminated the food when it was waiting for customers to take it home from the local open-air market are very high. Be it a pear from a market or an apple grown in your own garden, washing is a necessity. Some people do not believe flies can carry serious pathogens, but they’re wrong.

Flies are definitely not the kind of animals you would like to see in your home. Not only are they disgusting – they can also be reservoirs for microbes. A recent research showed that flies are more dangerous than it had been supposed. And here is why.

Pathogen carriers

It’s widely known that flies (be it a housefly or some other species) feed on decaying matter, and one of the common places for nurturing the young is feces. Such an unhygienic way of life makes them a threat to humans, as the number of bacteria they transfer from feces, mud and decaying organic matter is impressive. However, despite the fact that flies have been known as potent pathogen carriers for a long time, no study was dedicated to the issue of what bacteria use these insects as vehicles or mounts and how potent their transporting capabilities actually are.

In a recent research carried out by the Penn State University, it was revealed that flies are more dangerous than it had been supposed. The investigators analyzed microbiomes of two species of flies, namely blowflies and houseflies. There were 116 “participants”, which came from different countries and even continents. They had different backgrounds too: some flies used to be city-dwellers, while others preferred rural areas.
The researchers analyzed each part of the fly body separately and found that the most dangerous body parts, which appeared to be the places used for transmission more often than other organs, were legs and wings. The diversity of microbial inhabitants was highest on such organs as wings and legs (the body parts which contact with surfaces), which enables new colonies to appear, if the “landing site” of a fly has appropriate conditions for bacteria survival.

When the investigators compared microbiomes of the two species in question, they revealed a 50% similarity. Many of the pathogens flies carry are dangerous not only to humans, but also to plants and animals.

One of the surprising finds was that “urban” flies carried more pathogens that those that used to live in stables. Despite living close to horses’ feces and other kinds of organic matter, these flies appeared to be “cleaner”.

As to the most important findings, the study helped discover that flies can contribute to Helicobacter pylori transmission – this pathogen had not been found in flies before, and it is an important discovery, because if flies are used by Helicobacter to travel, it means that the risk of ulcers, which can be caused by the species, is increased. Most of the flies that carried Helicobacter were from Brazil.

What can I do to prevent food contamination?

The rules are quite easy:

  • Always wash your hands before eating.
  • Rinse the vegetables and fruits you are going to eat.
  • Do not leave food uncovered when you’re enjoying a picnic in the woods.
  • Use containers to store the leftovers and make sure insects do not have access to your lunch.
  • Use special mosquito nets to prevent flies from getting inside your home.
  • Do not leave food unattended.
  • Keep in mind the date on which a particular product is supposed to spoil.
  • Decaying organic matter is a thing which attracts flies.

Possible benefits

Despite the potency of these pathogen carriers, the researchers say that flies can be used as living drones for finding out what bacteria can be found in a particular area. For example, releasing flies and catching them later can help reveal whether there are dangerous species in the area by means of analyzing the microbiome they gather as they fly from place to place.

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