By NOEL MURPHY
LOUIE the Fly, that Aussie TV fixture of the 1960s, would be thrilled with the work going on at Deakin University right now.
With all its flies and maggots, ulcers, dead carcasses, bacteria and flystrike, it might not be the most appetising of research subjects but the outcomes could have far-reaching positive effects.
Microbiologist Michelle Harvey has just won a Churchill Fellowship to study the humble dunny budgie, or blowfly, and the way they deal with microbes with their own anti-bacterial substances.
Maggots, for instance, have been used in medicine for hundreds of years, and could hold the key to dealing with the disfiguring Bairnsdale ulcer.
Dr Harvey, together with Dr Melanie Thomson, has embarked on a so-called “mighty maggot” project to gauge what happens in a maggot’s stomach as it digests dead tissue.
Dr Harvey has spent 12 months to date at a Tennessee USA facility, watching bodies decompose to see what the insects do in different circumstances such as sun and shade, or when a body is clothed or buried.
“I am trying to be the first to take a holistic view of the flies and say they’re doing all these things that are very important economically and socially,” she said.
“Up until now, everyone has been doing their research in isolated pockets and I want to bring it all together.”
Old Louie, it seems, might ultimately prove more beneficial to humans than the Mortein ads suggest.