Houseflies are close human companions, New Scientist says. Cornell University entomologist Jeffrey Scott, who recently published on the housefly genome in Genome Biology, tells the New Scientist that flies seem to have spread out of Africa as people did.
"This is a species that was very much tied to human activities: the availability of human and animal waste provided sites for laying eggs and larval growth," he says. "If humans died out, the housefly would probably go too."
Houseflies are carriers of hundreds diseases, including the blindness-inducing trachoma. New technologies like RNAi, Scott says, could help control flies in a species-specific, environmentally safe manner.
But flies also do some good as they help decompose waste and may be a source of antimicrobial peptides. "If you isolate the gene that makes the antimicrobial peptide, you could potentially make it in the lab and produce buckets of it," Scott adds. "The possibility of sourcing new antimicrobial compounds from the housefly is a real one."