Tsetse flies increase,as control project stalls

16 04 2009

Ugandan scientists are puzzled with an overwhelming increase in tsetse flies population, after a multi-million shilling project to control the tsetse closed down, amid complaints related to financial mismanagement.

Tsetse flies cause sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in livestock. The nuclear technology project, into which donors and government injected Shs700m, came amid a resurgence of sleeping sickness and nagana in recent years. Uganda received a go ahead from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Headquarters in Vienna, Austria to use nuclear techniques to control tsetse flies.

In a new twist, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has written to the Attorney General to drag the original contractor, who allegedly misappropriated the money, to court. Dr Nicholas Kauta, the Commissioner for Livestock Health and Entomology in the ministry said all possible dialogue options with the contractor to return the money have failed.

He however declined to name the contractor, saying it would have legal implications on the ministry.
“The contractor consistently failed to meet the standards we want. The contractor never installed air conditioners, humid environment, a generator and all the conditions necessary for rearing the tsetse flies,” Kauta said.

The equipment was necessary to create an artificial conducive environment for rearing the captured tsetse flies based at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) in Tororo. The scientists were using a method called Sterile Male Technique.

About the technology
Under the technology, live male tsetse flies are captured from the wild and fed on cow blood meals inside specially built laboratories. Using high energy rays, they are sterilised and released into wild. The technique is a method of biological control. But at Tororo, out of the 100,000 tsetse flies the contractor had captured, only about 150 flies are reported still alive. Some were eaten by rats, and others died of hunger, according to Ministry of Agriculture officials.

The released insects are normally male as it is the female that causes the damage, usually by laying eggs in the crop, or, in the case of mosquitoes, taking a blood meal from humans and animals. The sterile males compete with the wild males for female insects most of the time, and concentrate on fights, foregoing mating. If a female mates with a sterile male then it will have no offspring.

The technique has successfully been used to eradicate the Screw-worm fly (Cochliomyia hominivorax) in areas of North America. There have also been many successes in controlling species of fruit flies, most particularly the Medfly (Ceratitis capitata), and the painted apple moth.

Dr Loyce Okidi, the head of Sleeping Sickness Research Programme at NaLIRRI said recently that their studies have indicated that there is a sharp increament in the river-line tsetse flies population in almost all parts of the country’s rivers and drainage network.
Over 60 per cent of the country is now endemic, with the tsetse flies,including areas where it had not been previously recorded.

Researchers said there was increased sleeping sickness and nagana cases in the Central Region, Northern and Eastern Uganda. More people are dying of the disease in rural areas when they fail to report to hospitals early enough when they self-medicate at home, confusing the disease for malaria.

Okidi said from Busoga region, the disease has spread to Apac, Amuria, Kaheramaido, Tororo and parts of Soroti District. They have adapted extensively to the vast savanna grasslands in the cattle corridor. Uganda’s vulnerability to the riverline species is also caused by the geographical location on a plateau tilting northwards. The rivers that flow across the country make the insects spread much easier.

Dr Okidi, the head of Sleeping Sickness Research Programme at NaLIRRI, said their research had shown a major resurgence of tsetse flies in eastern Uganda.

Source: Monitor-Uganda




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