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Study suggests fly vomit an overlooked transmitter of disease

Thursday, September 29th 2022, 1:36 pm - Fly on your food? You may want to read on before you take another bite.

That seemingly innocent house fly buzzing around your kitchen could be transferring germs onto your dinner plate, according to a recent study.

House flies have an organ called a crop, located at the start of their gut. It works like a gas tank, storing all the roadkill, poop, garbage, and other tasty fly treats before digestion.

Because this food hasn’t come into contact with neutralizing enzymes yet, it’s also a place for pathogens to hide.

When flies land on food, there’s a strong chance they will vomit up some of the contents of their crop, along with those digestive enzymes. Flies don’t have teeth, so that's how they break down their food.

So - what does this mean, and what risk does this pose to human health? Scientists are still trying to figure it all out.

But the recent study suggests mosquitos aren’t the only disease-carrying insects we should worry about. The house fly has probably been transferring germs all this time, right before our eyes.

“I’ve been working on synanthropic flies since I was a graduate student in the 1960s,” John Stoffolano, professor of entomology at UMass Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture and the author of the paper, says in a statement.

“And synanthropic flies have largely been ignored. 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.”

The paper is published in the journal Insect.

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