• Question: How can you tell if the insects are carrying illnesses?

    Asked by 12345giraffie to Alex, Claire, Kate, Marcus, Neil on 23 Jun 2014.
    • Photo: Alex Lyness

      Alex Lyness answered on 23 Jun 2014:

      Hey 12345giraffie,

      I think that is waaay beyond any of our knowledge as health engineers. Instead of getting you answer I reckon I can frame your question as a joke and come up with a few terrible punchlines instead.

      Q. How can you tell if the insect was carrying a illnesses?

      A. Because he looked LOUSE-y!
      A. He MITE complain about a headache!
      A. He looked a little GREEN-FLY!

      What do you reckon? Any good? 🙂

    • Photo: Marcus Johns

      Marcus Johns answered on 23 Jun 2014:

      Short of taking a blood sample from the insect in question, I don’t think their is an easy way of finding out – they move around too quickly and are too small for a quick visual examination (assuming that something could be seen that would tell you if they were carrying an illness). Unfortunately I think that the only easy way to tell is if the population of a larger animal – such as humans – start to get the illness.

    • Photo: Kate Niehaus

      Kate Niehaus answered on 23 Jun 2014:

      As Marcus has said, there’s no easy way to tell just from looking at an insect (at least that I know of). But, if you were able to get a sample of its “blood,” (insects have a different sort of blood than humans), then you could probably DNA-sequence what’s inside and figure out which sort of bacteria or viruses are living there.

      This is very similar to a cool new field called “metagenomics,” which just takes a sample from the environment and tried to use DNA sequencing and some math to try to figure out which organisms are contained inside.

    • Photo: Claire Brockett

      Claire Brockett answered on 24 Jun 2014:

      Unfortunately it’s pretty tricky to tell – as Marcus said they are too small and quick to examine, and I’m not sure how much use a visual inspection would be. As Alex said, this is beyond my area of expertise, so short of the suggestions the other engineers have made, I can’t add anything else I’m afraid.