Scientists Discover a New Way to Deter Mosquitoes
The world’s deadliest animal—by far—is the mosquito. The disease-carrying insects kill more people each year than even human wars and murderers. As a result, scientists and philanthropists are hard at work trying to figure out exactly what attracts mosquitoes to their human prey and how to repel them. New research suggests that futuristic mosquito repellents might tap into specific neurons that keep Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from tasting sugar.
The study, spotted by Haaretz, appeared in the journal PNAS last week. In it, entomologists find that certain receptors involved in urine excretion are also located in the leg and mouth hairs that mosquitoes use to taste. They engineered a synthetic compound that overwhelms these kinin receptors, turning off the mosquitoes’ ability to taste sugar. When this compound was added to a sugar water mixture (otherwise a delicious mosquito food), the mosquitoes (60 females in three trials) were completely turned off: The flying bugs avoided the food.
However, in order to be useful to humans, researchers will need to find a way to make the mosquitoes blood-averse, rather than sugar-averse, so a new kinin-receptor mosquito repellant is still a ways off.