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Breakthrough in flystrike research

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Finding a solution to flystrike is a step closer now Australian researchers have decoded the entire blowfly genome. Australian scientists have mapped the genome of the blowfly, in a move aimed at preventing the sheep disease, flystrike. The condition is estimated to cost the sheep industry around $280 million a year and causes sheep to die slow, agonising deaths during the Australian summer. The blowfly (Lucilia cuprina) is a significant parasite for Australian sheep, laying its maggots in the folds of sheepskin, leading to flystrike.


In a major scientific breakthrough, researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences have identified all of the blowfly’s 14,544 genes, which will let them conduct further research into more effective control measures for the parasite.

The research is published in the latest edition of the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Blowflies have proven extremely difficult for farmers to control, developing resistance to insecticides and making surgical interventions like mulesing necessary in some breeds of sheep.

But now the genome has been decoded, investigations into better chemicals, vaccines and even biological control measures will become more effective, according to the projects lead researcher, Dr Clare Anstead said.

“Because we now know all the genes in the genome, it provides really important insights into its molecular biology, how it interacts with the sheep which it feeds upon and most importantly reveals its potential to develop insecticide resistance,” she said.

“So we can use our knowledge of the genes which are involved in these areas as well as other aspects of the blowfly’s biology to develop control methods.”

The research project was a collaboration with the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Centre, with funding from the US National Human Genome Research Institute and Australian Wool Innovation.

The Melbourne University team identified 2,000 genes that were unique to the Australian blowfly, and the findings will help fight similar species that prey on sheep in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Source: ABCRural


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