Israeli and Australian scientists found a way to overcome insects' resistance to widely used insecticides, the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) reported on Monday.
These findings, reported in the journal PNAS, may help drastically reduce the use of insecticides, cutting environmental pollution as well as the cost of insect control.
The huge amounts of insecticides that are spewed on crops and farm animals worldwide are still growing because the insects are increasingly developing resistance to the chemicals.
Many of the common insecticides kill insects by blocking an enzyme which plays a crucial role in transmitting nerve signals, and a major mechanism by which insects can become resistant involves a mutation in this enzyme.
The WIS researchers, along with researchers from the Australian National University in Canberra and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, examined the resistance of the Lucilla cuprina blowfly, which inflicts hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in losses annually on the Australian sheep industry.
The scientists tested, using an advanced computer algorithm they developed, 23,000 compounds that disrupt enzyme activity, finding five compounds that give the fly the highest resistance.
Next, the new compounds were tested on blowflies in the larval stage, finding that one of the five proved particularly effective at killing the larvae.
Adding these compounds to a common insecticide increased its effectiveness five-fold against regular, non-resistant blowflies, while in resistant flies, adding the compound made it possible to cut the required amount of insecticide by up to 16 times.
In other experiments, conducted by the Biotransfer company in France, the compound proved effective against another widespread agricultural pest, the peach-potato aphid Myzus persicae.