Saturday, February 18, 2012

Flies Get Drunk to Kill Off Parasites

Fruit flies can apparently out-drink Frank the Tank and not get sick from alcohol poisoning. Now researchers have found this fraternity-party ability may save flies from a gory death.

The results showed that drunk fruit-fly larvae turned the tables by killing wasp parasites in their bloodstream, essentially causing the parasite's organs to drain from its anus, the researchers found.
Fruit fly larvae feed on the yeast and other fungi from rotting, or fermenting, fruit; during their snacking, the flies are bound to ingest the boozy byproducts of the fungi's fermentation — they are even able to use it as a food source and thrive on food with up to 4 percent alcohol.

Higher alcohol levels can be toxic to the fruit flies, study researcher Todd Schlenke, an assistant professor at Emory University, told LiveScience. "If the alcohol level gets too high, they can't break it down fast enough." The flies in the study only reached about 0.02 percent blood alcohol levels, they would have to drink four times that to reach the blood alcohol level considered illegal for driving.

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