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article imageWhy are mosquitoes attracted to people?

By Tim Sandle     Mar 5, 2014 in Science
Female mosquitoes, which can transmit deadly diseases like malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus and filariasis, are attracted to people by smelling the carbon dioxide we exhale. This is the outcome of a new study.
Recent research carried out by scientists at the University of California, Riverside have shown that receptors in the mosquito’s mouth that detect carbon dioxide are ones that detect skin odors as well. This explains why mosquitoes are attracted to skin odors, such as smelly socks, worn clothes, bedding, even in the absence of carbon dioxide.
The research is important because for many years scientists primarily focused on the complex antennae of mosquitoes for their search for human-skin odor receptors, and ignored the simpler functions of the mouth of the mosquito.
The research is outlined in the video below:
Until now, which mosquito olfactory neurons were required for attraction to skin odor remained a mystery. The new finding is critical not only for understanding the basis of the mosquito’s host attraction, but for the development of anti-mosquito repellents. A new generation of repellents could disrupt host-seeking behavior and thus aid in the control of disease transmission.
Another potential development is with mosquito traps. Currently, carbon dioxide is the primary lure in mosquito traps. Generating carbon dioxide requires burning fuel, evaporating dry ice, releasing compressed gas or fermentation of sugar — all of which is expensive, cumbersome, and impractical for use in developing countries.
The study has recommended , like cyclopentanone, that could offer a safe, affordable and convenient alternative that can finally work with surveillance and control traps.
The research was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Grand Challenges Exploration Initiative and a grant to Ray from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.
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