Under experimental conditions an African face fly (Musca xanthomelas) preferred to feed on cattle dung when provided with a choice of 3 different meals namely sucrose, cattle dung and blood. Flies starved overnight fed well on the eyes of cattle and rabbits, but were reluctant to feed again within 2 h after being allowed to feed on cell culture medium or on the eyes of wildebeest, and when they did feed, they preferred to feed on the external side of the eyelids and on the coagulated material in the medial canthus of the eye. Under field conditions flies were rarely seen to feed on the eyes of immobilized wildebeest.
Although M. xanthomelas became infected with Alcelaphinae herpes virus 1 (AHV-1) when they fed on infective wildebeest tears or cell culture medium, they lost the virus within 5 h, and recovery of infective AHV-1 particles from regurgitated cell culture medium was limited to the first 30 min. after feeding. AHV-1 could not be transmitted by flies to cattle or rabbits.
The failure to transfer the virus with flies can be ascribed to their reluctance to feed on cattle or rabbits shortly after they have consumed a protein rich meal, the rapid inactivation of ingested virus and the relatively high titre of virus necessary to infect cattle via the ocular route. Furthermore, it is believed that under natural conditions flies that have emerged from cattle dung will be inclined to stay with cattle where food is freely available. Therefore, should they become infected by feeding on wildebeest tears, they probably will not feed on the eyes of cattle soon enough to transfer the virus effectively.
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