Information and images relating to these topics is covered in a new on-line talk, as part of the Henry Stewart series on Vector-borne Diseases.
See: Stevens, J. (2010), "Myiasis in humans and other animals, including applied applications in larval therapy & forensic entomology", in Edman, J. (ed.), Vector-Borne Diseases, The Biomedical & Life Sciences Collection, Henry Stewart Talks Ltd, London (online at HSTalks.com).
The evolution of ectoparasitism in Calliphoridae (blowflies and screworm flies)
Blowflies are characterized by the ability of their larvae to develop in the flesh living or dead of vertebrates; such parasitism of living animals by dipterous larvae is known as myiasis. The evolutionary origins of the myiasis habit in the Calliphoridae remain unclear. Species associated with an ectoparasitic lifestyle can be divided into three groups based on their larval feeding habits: saprophagous, facultative ectoparasitism, and primary obligate parasitism. Phylogenetic analysis of the 28S rRNA gene and mtDNA cytochrome oxidase subunits I and II sequences are being undertaken to elucidate the origins of the myiasis habit within family Calliphoridae.
Population-level variation in the blowflies, Lucilia sericata and Lucilia cuprina
Genetic variation has been studied at the population level in the cosmopolitan blowfly pests Lucilia sericata and Lucilia cuprina using DNA sequencing, RAPD and RFLP analyses, in combination with classical morphological taxonomic methods. Samples have been obtained from all major sheep rearing areas worldwide. Results have allowed an improved understanding of the genetics and taxonomy of the genus, and the evolution of myiasis (blowfly strike) in Lucilia.
The group has also contributed to a recent IAEA research programme: Enabling Technologies for the Expansion of SIT for Old and New World Screwworm Fly, in which the population genetic variation of screwworm flies has been studied with a view to understanding the possible genetic basis of differential efficacy of sterile insect releases.
Researching improved technologies for larval therapy
Through a University of Exeter spin-out company, MediLarv - under the umbrella of BioElf, we are engaged in researching the biological basis of larval therapy, a technique which, though now relatively fashionable again in mainstream medicine, is little different today from when first practised on the battlefields of the American Civil War. Our research is directed towards understanding the biochemical basis of the healing action of the larvae, with the eventual aim of removing altogether the maggots from the process, i.e. taking the maggot out of the equation; see related BBC News article.
Evolution of myiasis
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