A Science article published on July 9, 2010, describes the discovery of an alternative form of evolution that helps Drosophila flies conquer nematodes that sterilize them. Nematodes are among the most abundant, diverse and destructive parasites of plants and animals.
The article, titled, “Adaptation via Symbiosis; Recent Spread of a Drosophila Defensive Symbiont”, is by John Jaenike of the University of Rochester and his colleagues. In a video interview, Jaenike explains the results of this study and their implications for developing treatments for serious human diseases, including river blindness, caused by nematodes; about 17.7 million people worldwide are currently infected with river blindness.
“The protection of an insect from a potent nematode parasite by a bacterial infection is of potential importance in both medicine and agriculture,” says George Gilchrist, a program director at the National Science Foundation. “This study adds a new page to the catalogue of interactions between animals and bacteria.”
The Science study is also discussed in a press release from the University of Rochester.