US researchers discover unique Mosquito scent

Published: April 2, 2019

Researchers in the US have successfully conducted pathbreaking researches on mosquitoes by genetically modifying them to make humans less attractive to them. It is proclaimed that this will significantly reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases which have become deadly in recent times like dengue, malaria, Zika fever etc.

It has been long known that female mosquitoes use a range of sensory information for locating humans for biting. They are equipped to sense the exhaled carbon dioxide from a distance of as much as 10m. In addition, they are also able to detect body odour, moisture and even heat.

As per this new research, which is published in the journal Current Biology, there is an acidic component in human sweat which plays a major role in the insect attraction. The scientists have identified a gene called Ir8a which finds expression in the antenna of the mosquito. Ir8a is the gene which lets the female mosquitoes especially the ones which are blood-suckers to be able to smell lactic acid in human sweat. Researchers were able to boil down to this gene by using advanced CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology, by which they were able to disrupt that gene thus making the female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes significantly less interested in humans. Scientists have concluded that removing the smelling function of Ir8a reduces the host-seeking activity of the mosquito by 50 per cent.

These genetically-modified mosquitoes were not much likely to both detect and bite humans. This makes the spread of mosquito-borne diseases very difficult.

It is assumed that the Aedes species of mosquito which normally resides alongside half of the population of the world and is instrumental in spreading diseases which result in the death of millions of people across the world, will not be able to bite humans with this new discovery. Matthew DeGennaro, a mosquito neurobiology researcher at Florida International University, has said that the transmission of many deadly diseases like dengue, Zika, yellow fever, malaria etc. can be arrested if these mosquitoes are prevented from biting the humans.

Scientists state that they can develop life-saving perfumes which will disrupt the sense of smell of these mosquitoes and thereby protect people from biting them.

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