Most people see species of flies, including the fruit fly, as a pest and a nucance. However, those who are looking to detect drugs and explosives may have found a powerful ally with the fruit fly, or more specifically, its nose. According to new research from Professor Thomas Nowotny at the University of Sussex, the “noses”, or sense of smell, of fruit flies can identify odors from drugs and explosive substances almost as much as they can sniff out wine odors. Wine odors are a natural attractant to the insects, as it smells like their favorite food, fermenting fruit. The study is another step forward in the development of electronic, or e, noses, that will be able to replicate the sensitive smell of animals. Professor Nowotny and his team saw how 20 different receptor neurons in fruit flies responded to chemical sets related to wine(the “wine” set), and a set related to drugs and explosive materials(the “industrial” set). Using a computer program, the team was able to see which smells gave out the strongest reactions in the flies. In the wine set, 29 of the 36 chemical compounds gave responses, as compared to 21 of the 35 for the industrial set. The long-term goal for the team is to re-create animals’ noses for applications such as sniffing out drugs and explosives. Re-creating the entire nose would be difficult, according to Nowotny. So the goal must be to find the 5 or 10 receptors that work the most efficently and try and re-create them. The fruit fly was a tremendous help to the team as far as advancing research in finding out which receptors can be used to sniff out drugs and explosives the best. In conclusion, the next time you think of a fruit fly as just a pest, think about the thousands of lives it could be helping to save through its incredible sense of smell.