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Responses of the putative trachoma vector, Musca sorbens, to volatile semiochemicals from human faeces

Robinson, Ailie; Bristow, Julie; Holl, Matthew V.; Makalo, Pateh; Alemayehu, Wondu; Bailey, Robin L.; Macleod, David; Birkett, Michael A.; Caulfield, John C.; Sarah, Virginia; Pickett, John A.; Dewhirst, Sarah; Chen-Hussey, Vanessa; Woodcock, Christine M.; D’Alessandro, Umberto; Last, Anna; Burton, Matthew J.; L*indsay, Steve W.; Logan, James G.

Responses of the putative trachoma vector, Musca sorbens, to volatile semiochemicals from human faeces Thumbnail


Ailie Robinson

Julie Bristow

Matthew V. Holl

Pateh Makalo

Wondu Alemayehu

Robin L. Bailey

David Macleod

Michael A. Birkett

John C. Caulfield

Virginia Sarah

John A. Pickett

Sarah Dewhirst

Vanessa Chen-Hussey

Christine M. Woodcock

Umberto D’Alessandro

Anna Last

Matthew J. Burton

Steve W. L*indsay

James G. Logan



The putative vector of trachoma, Musca sorbens, prefers to lay its eggs on human faeces on the ground. This study sought to determine whether M. sorbens females were attracted to volatile odours from human faeces in preference to odours from the faeces of other animals, and to determine whether specific volatile semiochemicals mediate selection of the faeces. Traps baited with the faeces of humans and local domestic animals were used to catch flies at two trachoma-endemic locations in The Gambia and one in Ethiopia. At all locations, traps baited with faeces caught more female M. sorbens than control traps baited with soil, and human faeces was the most successful bait compared with soil (mean rate ratios 44.40, 61.40, 10.50 [P<0.001]; 8.17 for child faeces [P = 0.004]). Odours from human faeces were sampled by air entrainment, then extracts of the volatiles were tested by coupled gas chromatography-electroantennography with laboratory-reared female M. sorbens. Twelve compounds were electrophysiologically active and tentatively identified by coupled mass spectrometry-gas chromatography, these included cresol, indole, 2-methylpropanoic acid, butanoic acid, pentanoic acid and hexanoic acid. It is possible that some of these volatiles govern the strong attraction of M. sorbens flies to human faeces. If so, a synthetic blend of these chemicals, at the correct ratios, may prove to be a highly attractive lure. This could be used in odour-baited traps for monitoring or control of this species in trachoma-endemic regions.


Robinson, A., Bristow, J., Holl, M. V., Makalo, P., Alemayehu, W., Bailey, R. L., …Logan, J. G. (2020). Responses of the putative trachoma vector, Musca sorbens, to volatile semiochemicals from human faeces. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 14(3), Article e0007719.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 13, 2020
Online Publication Date Mar 3, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Apr 1, 2020
Publicly Available Date Apr 2, 2020
Journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Print ISSN 1935-2727
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 3
Article Number e0007719


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Copyright Statement
Copyright: © 2020 Robinson et al. This is an open<br /> access article distributed under the terms of the<br /> Creative Commons Attribution License, which<br /> permits unrestricted use, distribution, and<br /> reproduction in any medium, provided the original<br /> author and source are credited.

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