SLOVAKS are helping to reduce numbers of tsetse flies and thus also the spread of sleeping sickness in Kenya via a sterile insect technique. In December, Slovak Ambassador to Nairobi Milan Zachar officially opened a lab in the Kenyan capital built as part of a project to fight sleeping sickness. The project reduces the occurrence of tsetse flies and thus hampers the spread of the contagious disease. The lab, at the premises of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in Nairobi, was constructed with the cooperation of the Institute of Zoology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV), the SITA newswire wrote.
Under the project, the lab will produce sterile males, which, after being let out, will be not able to fertilise female tsetse flies. Slovaks hope to use this method to eradicate dangerous diseases like human sleeping sickness and animal trypanosomiasis, also known as nagana. The lab should release its first sterile tsetse males this summer.
The SAV Institute of Zoology has maintained Slovakia’s biggest colony of tsetse flies since 2002. It currently comprises 100,000 flies, but the institute plans to double this. They see Kenya as an ideal country to put into practice the experience they have gathered to date.
“We do not want to eradicate flies, but the disease,” said institute director Milan Kozánek, as quoted by the SITA newswire.
The eradication project, which is expected to be 98-percent effective, should significantly improve the nourishment of local people. Local African cows, which are resistant to the disease, produce only two to three litres of milk per day, while European and south-American breeds are 30 times more productive. Eradication of nagana will enable the breeding of cows from these more productive types.
17. Jan 2011 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff