Decades earlier we learnt that mosquitoes are attracted to human sweat due to the presence of lactic acid. The precise mechanism though has always remained a mystery.
Recently, a team of researchers discovered that the disease carrying insects contain an olfactory receptor that allows them to hone in on our odour. Even better, these researchers also learnt how to turn the olfactory receptors off. Imagine no more mosquito bites!
The research was conducted at the Florida International. The journal Current Biology, on Thursday, published their work on the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which are known for spreading deadly illnesses like Zika, dengue and yellow fever.
Matthew DeGennaro, the leas biologist and his team identified the guilty receptor as Ionotropic Receptor 8a, or simply IR8a, through a process of elimination. This whole process began in 2013 when DeGennaro was able to create the world’s first mutant mosquito when he removed a gene to investigate how its absence affected the insect.
One of his PhD students Joshua Raji began carrying out an exposure experiment using his own arm, and found the mutant mosquitoes were significantly less attracted to him than wild ones.
14 additional subjects went through testing in order to confirm the results.
“People have been looking for a receptor for lactic acid since the 1960s,” DeGennaro told.
This could lead to a new generation of attractants that can lure adult specimens into traps that helps in population control. It could help in making advanced repellents that would prevent mosquitoes from even detecting people.
Although this might take years, the researchers are definitely one step closer.