Ethiopia Is Using Radiation to Eradicate Tsetse Flies

November 14, 2012

Worku Tegegne pets his cow in Ghibe Valley, southwest of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is suffering from bovine trypanosomosis, transmitted by tsetse flies.
Worku Tegegne pets his cow in Ghibe Valley, southwest of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is suffering from bovine trypanosomosis, transmitted by tsetse flies.

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia is winning the battle against the tsetse fly, using what officials say is safe nuclear technology.

The project to battle livestock-menacing tsetse flies started in April in a laboratory on the outskirts of the capital. The key weapon? Radiation.

Terzu Daya, the director the lab, explains how it works.

“The purpose of radiation is to make them [tsetste flies] to be sterile,” said Daya. “If you avoid further generation, so that the tsetse fly can be eradicated. The main secret behind this is that, once female flies mate with the male, she will not mate again in her life. That’s the advantage.”

After the sterilization, a plane spreads thousands of non-productive tsetse flies every Wednesday in various parts of Ethiopia, especially along riverbed breeding grounds. So far, more than a million laboratory flies have been released. Now sterilized flies outnumber fertile flies, eight to one.

Thomas Cherenet, the director general of the Southern Tsetse Eradication Project, says the program is safe, effective and will not affect the delicate food chain balance.

“They [the tsteste flies] are not even used in the food chain,” said Cherenet. “They are not used for any animal to be fed.”

The tsetse fly is only found in Africa and poses threats to both humans and livestock. The blood sucking fly spreads a parasite which causes trypanosomiasis and attacks the central nervous system. In humans the disease is commonly called sleeping sickness. In cattle and other livestock it is called nagana. Its symptoms are similar to malaria and it can kill, if left untreated. Tens of millions of Africans and their livestock are at risk each year.

Cherenet says the radiation project to eradicate the tsetse is having a quick and positive impact. He notes that the livestock population has tripled this year.

Source: VOA News