PloS one

Semiochemicals released from five bacteria identified from animal wounds infested by primary screwworms and their effects on fly behavioral activity.

PMID 28594888


The Primary screwworm, Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel), is a serious pest feeding on living flesh of any warm-blooded animal, including humans. It was eradicated from the United States in the early 1980s using the sterile male technique. However, it was recently detected in populations of wild deer and pets in the Florida Keys of the US. For monitoring purposes, screwworm flies are normally trapped using attractant bait with liver. However, there has been little effort to develop an efficient monitoring system for detection of screwworm flies using a specific synthetic attractant blend. Several studies have shown that odors from animal wound fluids attract screwworm adults, particularly gravid females. Bacteria associated with animal wounds have been identified that act as a major source for this attraction. To understand what volatiles attract screwworms we inoculated bovine blood with previously identified bacteria. We identified volatile chemicals released from the inoculated blood and other selected media over time and assessed the effect of those chemicals on behavioral activity of adult screwworm flies. A total of 7 volatile compounds were collected from bacteria incubated in either broth or blood using solid-phase microextraction, and their chemical structures were identified by their characteristic mass spectrum fragments and confirmed by retention times in comparison to those of synthetic standards via gas chromatograph combined mass spectrometry analyses. Five major volatiles including dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, phenol, p-cresol and indole were detected from a mixture of 5 bacteria incubated in blood. The ratios of volatiles released differed among different incubation media, time and individual bacteria. A synthetic mixture containing the five compounds was demonstrated to be attractive to adult screwworm flies both in laboratory assays and field trapping trials. The results obtained from this study may assist in developing an efficient trapping system using the identified attractant blend to detect the infestation of primary screwworms. This is also the first study to explore the complex systems in volatile release profiles from 5 bacteria isolated from screwworm-infested animal wounds that are incubated with different media and incubation time, as well as individual and multi-species bacterial communities.