Flies have a deadly reputation for spreading diseases and bacteria, but some scientists now think they might actually be able to help us.

You can be forgiven for angrily swatting at flies. After all, they don’t exactly have a stellar reputation as being the most sanitary of Earth’s creatures. Now researchers at Penn State’s Eberly College of Science have provided some more disturbing proof that flies are very good at one thing in particular – spreading bacteria harmful to humans. With samples taken from three continents, it was found that flies can be linked to the spread of the pathogens which fuel disease outbreaks. Should we have been surprised, considering most flies preferred diet of rotting organic remains and their obsession with mating on fecal matter?

Scientists are estimating that by 2020, 15-20 new pathogens with be discovered every year. It’s a disturbing number, but this is where flies might actually be able to help us. Flies that suck blood from animals for their dinner could be used to help detect and prevent the spread of disease to humans. These flies would allow scientists to better narrow down which animals are carrying diseases in a specific region, leading to better containment and decrease the odds of an outbreak. Still, we’d probably all feel a little better if flies didn’t seem to love poop so much.

Story by Jay Moon