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Specific detection of Chrysomya bezziana (SWF) in bulk trap catches using real time PCR

The Old World screw-worm fly (SWF), Chrysomya bezziana, does not currently occur in Australia but it does occur in almost all other tropical countries. It is a species of major concern to livestock in northern Australia because Screw-worm flies breed in wounds on mammals, including humans. The female screw-worm fly lays up to 250 eggs on the edge of an injury, scratch, branding mark or castration wound. Larvae (maggots) hatch within 24 hours, enter the wound and chew their way into healthy underlying flesh to feed. The wound becomes a mass of maggots, causing extensive tissue damage and leaving the flesh susceptible to a secondary fly strike. 

After about a week the larvae drop from the wound to pupate in the soil. Adults emerge in another seven days to mate and repeat the cycle. If left untreated, infested animals can die from infection and loss of tissue fluid. Screw-worm flies look like Australian blowflies, with a shiny, blue-green body and red eyes, and can only be distinguished from native flies through microscopic examination or DNA analysis. The aim of this research was to develop a practical assay for the identification of SWF in bulk fly samples. The result is a PCR assay which can detect one Screw-worm fly in 1000 other similar flies, making identification far easier than the previous identification method which relied on the work of an expert entomologist. The optimal trapping period for fly identification was determined to be 10 days. The assay developed is sensitive and fast and will assist industry by providing early detection of a SWF incursion into Australia leading to a shorter response time and faster containment of this exotic pest.


Title Size Date published
266.7KB 01/05/2008


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Specific detection of Chrysomya bezziana (SWF) in bulk trap catches using real time PCR
01/01/2006 09/01/2009

This page was last updated on 06/07/2018

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