Tsetse fly evolution, genetics and the trypanosomiases - A review

Krafsur, E. S.
Krafsur, Elliot
Maudlin, Ian
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This reviews work published since 2007. Relative efforts devoted to the agents of African trypanosomiasis and their tsetse fly vectors are given by the numbers of PubMed accessions. In the last 10 years PubMed citations number 3457 for Trypanosoma brucei and 769 for Glossina. The development of simple sequence repeats and single nucleotide polymorphisms afford much higher resolution of Glossina and Trypanosoma population structures than heretofore. Even greater resolution is offered by partial and whole genome sequencing. Reproduction in T. brucei sensu lato is principally clonal although genetic recombination in tsetse salivary glands has been demonstrated in T. b. brucei and T. b. rhodesiense but not in T. b. gambiense.

In the past decade most genetic attention was given to the chief human African trypanosomiasis vectors in subgenus Nemorhina e.g., Glossina f. fuscipes, G. p. palpalis, and G. p. gambiense. The chief interest in Nemorhina population genetics seemed to be finding vector populations sufficiently isolated to enable efficient and long-lasting suppression. To this end estimates were made of gene flow, derived from FSTand its analogues, and Ne, the size of a hypothetical population equivalent to that under study. Genetic drift was greater, gene flow and Ne typically lesser in savannah inhabiting tsetse (subgenus Glossina) than in riverine forms (Nemorhina). Population stabilities were examined by sequential sampling and genotypic analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial genomes in both groups and found to be stable. Gene frequencies estimated in sequential samplings differed by drift and allowed estimates of effective population numbers that were greater for Nemorhina spp than Glossina spp.

Prospects are examined of genetic methods of vector control. The tsetse long generation time (c. 50 d) is a major contraindication to any suggested genetic method of tsetse population manipulation. Ecological and modelling research convincingly show that conventional methods of targeted insecticide applications and traps/targets can achieve cost-effective reduction in tsetse densities.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Krafsur, E. S., and Ian Maudlin. "Tsetse fly evolution, genetics and the trypanosomiases-A review." Infection, Genetics and Evolution 64 (2018): 185-206. doi; 10.1016/j.meegid.2018.05.033. Posted with permission.