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‘Pay attention to fly vomit,’ researchers argue — Here’s why

Imagine that during a cookout, a fly lands atop some food on your plate. You can swat it away and keep eating, but the insect may have left something behind.Massachusetts researchers suggest that “we need to pay far more attention” to the disease-carrying potential of flies that may vomit on our food. “Blood-feeding flies have taken the limelight, but we should pay attention to the ones that live among us because they get their nutrients from people and animals that shed pathogens in their tears, feces and wounds,” said John Stoffolano, a professor of entomology at UMass Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture.Stoffolano, who has studied non-biting flies since the 1960s, recently published a new paper in the journal Insects that argues that the bugs are potent and understudied transmitters of disease. Going back to the fly that interrupted your cookout, consider where it may have been before landing on your meal. Perhaps it fed on roadkill, rotting garbage or animal dung, filling its crop at one or more of those unsavory buffets. “The crop is like a gas tank,” Stoffolano explained in a statement provided by UMass, “a place to store food before it makes its way into the digestive tract.”UMass explained the fly gets rid of excess water in the crop by regurgitating and because the crop plays little role in digestion, that vomit may include whatever illness-causing pathogens the insect happened to consume earlier in the day. “It gets worse,” the university wrote in a summary of Stoffolano’s work. “Because a fly’s crop is one of the cauldrons where microbes develop antibacterial resistance, what gets spewed out onto your food might not respond well to conventional treatments.”Stoffolano’s paper argues for additional research of the crop organ and whether the flies are involved in emerging infectious diseases.

Imagine that during a cookout, a fly lands atop some food on your plate. You can swat it away and keep eating, but the insect may have left something behind.

Massachusetts researchers suggest that “we need to pay far more attention” to the disease-carrying potential of flies that may vomit on our food.

“Blood-feeding flies have taken the limelight, but we should pay attention to the ones that live among us because they get their nutrients from people and animals that shed pathogens in their tears, feces and wounds,” said John Stoffolano, a professor of entomology at UMass Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture.

Stoffolano, who has studied non-biting flies since the 1960s, recently published a new paper in the journal Insects that argues that the bugs are potent and understudied transmitters of disease.

Going back to the fly that interrupted your cookout, consider where it may have been before landing on your meal. Perhaps it fed on roadkill, rotting garbage or animal dung, filling its crop at one or more of those unsavory buffets.

“The crop is like a gas tank,” Stoffolano explained in a statement provided by UMass, “a place to store food before it makes its way into the digestive tract.”

UMass explained the fly gets rid of excess water in the crop by regurgitating and because the crop plays little role in digestion, that vomit may include whatever illness-causing pathogens the insect happened to consume earlier in the day.

“It gets worse,” the university wrote in a summary of Stoffolano’s work. “Because a fly’s crop is one of the cauldrons where microbes develop antibacterial resistance, what gets spewed out onto your food might not respond well to conventional treatments.”

Stoffolano’s paper argues for additional research of the crop organ and whether the flies are involved in emerging infectious diseases.



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