Search: Look for:   Last 1 Month   Last 6 Months   All time

How boozing ups survival rate of fruit flies

Washington, Fri, 17 Feb 2012 ANI

Washington, Feb 17 (ANI): Fruit flies infected with a blood-borne parasite consume alcohol to self-medicate, a behaviour that significantly increases their survival rate, a new study has revealed.


The results of the study add to the growing body of evidence that some animals know how to use toxic substances found in nature as medicine.


"We believe our results are the first to show that alcohol consumption can have a protective effect against infectious disease, and in particular against blood-borne parasites," said Todd Schlenke, the evolutionary geneticist who led the research.


"It may be that fruit flies are uniquely adapted to using alcohol as medicine but our data raise an important question: Could other organisms, perhaps even humans, control blood-borne parasites through high doses of alcohol?"


Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly that swirls around browning bananas in your kitchen, is an important biological model system. The Schlenke lab uses D. melanogaster to study how immune systems adapt to pathogens.


The fly larvae eat the rot, or fungi and bacteria, that grows on overripe, fermenting fruit.


"They're essentially living in booze," Schlenke said.


"The amount of alcohol in their natural habitat can range from 5 to 15 percent. Imagine if everything that you ate and drank all day long was 5-percent alcohol. We wouldn't be able to live like that, but fruit flies are really good at detoxifying alcohol."


Tiny, endoparasitoid wasps are major killers of fruit flies. The wasps inject their eggs inside the fruit fly larvae, along with venom that aims to suppress their hosts' immune response.


If the venom is effective enough, the wasp egg hatches and the wasp larva begins to eat the fruit fly larva from the inside out. Eventually, an adult wasp emerges from the remains of the fruit fly pupa.


Some fruit flies, however, can overcome the effects of wasp venom and mount an immune response against wasp eggs. The blood cells in these fly larvae swarm over the wasp eggs and release nasty chemicals to kill them, allowing the fruit fly larvae to grow into adults.


Schlenke wondered if the fruit flies could be tapping the toxic effects of alcohol in their natural habitat to fight off wasps.


To test the theory, the researchers used a bisected petri dish filled with the yeast that fruit flies are normally fed in a lab environment. The yeast on one side of the dish was mixed with 6 percent alcohol, while the yeast on the other side remained alcohol-free.


The researchers then released fruit fly larvae into the dish, allowing them to freely move to either side.


After 24 hours, 80 percent of the fruit fly larvae that were infected with wasps were on the alcohol side of the dish, while only 30 percent of the non-infected fruit fly larvae were on the alcohol side.


"The strength of the result was surprising," Schlenke said.


"The infected fruit flies really do seem to purposely consume alcohol, and the alcohol consumption correlates to much higher survival rates."


Infected fruit flies that consumed alcohol beat out the wasps in about 60 percent of the cases, compared to a 0 percent survival rate for fruit fly controls that fed on plain yeast.


"The wasps aren't as good as the flies at handling alcohol," Schlenke insisted.


A developing wasp knocked out within an alcohol-consuming fly larva dies in a particularly horrible way, he asserted.


The lab repeated the experiment using another species of wasp that specializes in laying its eggs in D. melanogaster, rather than the generalist wasp used previously.


Again, 80 percent of the infected flies wound up on the alcohol side of the dish, while only 30 percent of the uninfected flies did. But the alcohol diet was far less effective against the specialist wasps, killing them in only 10 percent of the cases.


"You would expect this kind of result, since the generalist wasp species can attack plenty of other flies, but the specialist wasps are under strong pressure to adapt to the alcohol-infused habitat of D. melanogaster" Schlenke added.


The study has been published in Current Biology. (ANI)


Manohar Lal being presented with a memento
Manoj Tiwari BJP Relief meets the family members of late Ankit Sharma
Haryana CM Manohar Lal congratulate former Deputy PM Lal Krishna Advani on his 92nd birthday
King of Bhutan, the Bhutan Queen and Crown Prince meeting the PM Modi
PM Narendra Modi welcomes the King of Bhutan
Post comments:
Your Name (*) :
Your Email :
Your Phone :
Your Comment (*):
  Reload Image




Excellent Hair Fall Treatment
Careers | Privacy Policy | Feedback | About Us | Contact Us | | Latest News
Copyright © 2015 NEWS TRACK India All rights reserved.