ARS Science Key to Stopping ‘Man-Eating’ Parasite

S. Elliott,  Tellus,  2021.

Roughly translated, the Latin scientific name for the New World Screwworm – Cochliomyia hominivorax – is maneater. It is an appropriate name. Though small, the larvae of the blow fly lives up to its name as it burrows into the open wounds of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Through its feeding, larvae enlarge the original wounds, which can lead to infection and death. Fortunately, Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-led scientists managed to drive the pest from North America and are holding the line in Panama. Screwworm infestations were once prevalent in the United States, with 230,000 cases reported in 1935 alone. ARS scientists Edward Knipling and Raymond Bushland conceived and developed the sterile insect technique (SIT) to control and eradicate screwworms. With SIT, sterilized male blow flies were released to breed with wild flies. Since female blow flies mate only once, the coupling effectively removed that female and her potential offspring from the population.

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