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DNA Fingerprint Roundup

December 9, 2011

New uses for DNA fingerprinting include tracking deadly tse-tse flies and identifying species from ancient soil samples.



Barcoding life. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

DNA fingerprints are a powerful tool in identifying bad guys. Researchers working in Africa are using the technique to track a different kind of bad guy: the tse-tse fly. These blood-sucking insects carry the microbe that causes sleeping sickness, which kills a quarter of a million people each year. There are over 30 different kinds of the fly, and scientists are analyzing DNA from their blood meals. Knowing what sort of animal each kind of fly prefers biting will help scientists develop methods to control them.

In related news, at a conference in Australia, scientists discussed hundreds of new uses for DNA fingerprinting, including using DNA in ancient soil cores to identify animals that lived thousands of years ago; assessing the biodiversity and health of underwater ecosystems; and studying populations of important pollinators, like bees and butterflies. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.