Researchers in US have mosquitoes that have genetically modified them to make people less attractive to them – a discovery that could reduce the spread of mosquito diseases, such as dengue, malaria and Zika.
Female mosquitoes are known to use a variety of sensory information to find people to bite.
They can detect carbon dioxide after destroying as much as 10 meters away, as well as detecting odor, heat and body moisture.
But new research, published in the journal Current Biology, has shown that an acidic component in human sweat plays a key role in attracting the insect.
"We wanted to understand the genetic basis of how the mosquitoes detect their human guests," said Matthew DeGennaro, a mosquito neurobiology researcher at Florida International University, to Al Jazeera.
The scientists noted a gene – called Ir8a – to be expressed in the mosquito antenna.
This gene appears to allow female mosquitoes, those that suck blood, smell lactic acid, specific acidic vapor in human sweat.
Using CRISPR / Cas9 gene ultrasound technology, the researchers were able to disrupt that gene, making the Aedes aegyptia female mosquitoes much less interested in humans.
"The removal of the Ir8a function removes about 50 percent of the activity looking for accommodation," said DeGennaro.
The genetically modified mosquitoes were less likely to detect and bite people, making them much less likely to spread mosquito illness.
For a species such as Aedes aegypti, living alongside half of the world's population – and spreading diseases that kill millions of people each year – this genetic modification has health benefits t huge potential.
"It is possible to prevent the transmission of diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, Zika and malaria if we stop these mosquitoes from biting," said DeGennaro.
Although the release of genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild to tackle the spread of dengue fever has been a controversial practice, this latest research not only focuses on the potential of breeding them. wild populations.
The researchers say that their work can also offer a more developed understanding of how mosquitoes hunt and feed on their human targets and allow them to develop better mosquito repellents.
These could include life-saving perfumes or smells that would interfere with the smell of mosquitoes and protect people from being bitten.
"Smells that hide the IR8a route could improve the effectiveness of existing abstracts like DEET or picaridin. In this way, our discovery could help make people disappear as potential guests for mosquitoes," said DeGennaro.
|Researchers were able to disturb the Ir8a gene, making less interest in female mosquitoes in humans [Photo by Florida International University/Flickr]|
Likewise the researchers say they could use the discovery to over-stimulate parts of the insect detection system, and use the smell to attract them from our people and to t into crutches.
The effect is "going on a lift with someone who has put too much gologne on the way," said Larry Zwiebel, a biologist at Vanderbilt University, told US broadcaster, NPR.
In February this year, the World Health Organization warned that increased resistance to insecticides could lead to large increases in malaria and mortality.
The impacts of climate change, which will make more parts of the world welcoming to mosquitoes and the diseases they spread, are also expected to hinder management efforts.
In this context, new and innovative insect management methods such as those developed by Florida researchers are set to become increasingly important.