In the past 20 years, enormous progress has been made in understanding insect genes and manipulating the genes for pest control or other human uses. Biochemists had developed methods for determining the sequence of genes and other DNA decades ago. By 1990, the technology was developed to the point where sequencing all the human genes was possible. At the same time, a project was launched to sequence the genes in Drosophila an important insect for genetic research. The project was initiated in 1990. It was accompanied by efforts to improve the speed an accuracy of sequencing. Rapid improvements in technology led to the program delivering results on time and under budget.
When the human genome project ended, ths infrastructure built to support the effort could be applied to other organisms. New uses for genetic information were developed as more information became available. The genomes of many organisms including many insects have been sequenced, especially those important to man. More sequencing efforts are on the way.
The current goal is to sequence the genomes of 5000 insects and related arthropods in a five year period. These large international, multi-scientist projects are providing the modern tools needed to speed the progress of reseach.
This month (April 2014) the genome sequece of an important insect, the tsetse fly, was announced. The tsetse fly is a vector of African sleeping sickness, a disease of humans and livestock. Sleeping sickness a barrier to food security in several countries in Africa. Knowledge of the tsetse genome is a useful reserach tool for answering many questions about tsetse biology more quickly and will hopefully lead to new control strategies.