From: University of Bonn
Published October 20, 2017 01:58 PM

"Antelope Perfume" Keeps Flies Away From Cows

In Africa, tsetse flies transfer the sleeping sickness also to cattle. This leads to huge losses in milk, meat and manpower. The damage in Africa is estimated to be about 4.6 billion US dollars each year. Prof. Dr. Christian Borgemeister from the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn and his colleagues from Kenya and the UK have developed an innovative way of preventing the disease. The scientists took advantage of the fact that tsetse flies avoid waterbucks, a widespread antelope species in Africa. The scientists imitated the smell of these antelopes. If the cattle were equipped with collars containing the defense agent, more than 80 percent of the cattle were spared from the feared infection. This research results are presented in "PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases".

Tsetse flies are widespread in Africa. They feed on blood and can transfer the dreaded sleeping sickness. The infection can be lethal and damages the nervous system and, in the final stage, causes a dozy state, which gave the disease its name. Many people in tropical Africa are directly endangered, but the transfer to cattle also has drastic consequences for agriculture by reducing the production of milk, meat and labor.

In the fight against sleeping sickness, Prof. Dr. Christian Borgemeister of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn and a team of researchers from the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (both in Kenya) and Rothamsted Research, Harpenden (Great Britain) pursued a new approach. The tsetse flies avoid waterbucks, an African antelope species, because they find the smell of the animals repellent.

Read more at University of Bonn

Image: A farmer uses the new neck collars with the waterbucker's defense when plowing. The outbreaks of sleeping sickness in the cattle could thus be reduced by more than 80 percent. (Credit: © Foto: Dr. R. K. Saini/icipe)

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