Mosquitoes are more attracted to some humans than others, and scientists have long been trying to figure out why. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine may have found the answer, having mapped specialised receptors on the insects’ nerve cells that help them detect particularly “welcoming” odours in human skin.
This discovery could be crucial in developing new ways to prevent mosquito bites and the diseases they cause, including malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus. These diseases afflict around 700 million people and kill about 750,000 each year. As a result of the possibilities of this discovery, humans as a race could enjoy healthier lives, if we can achieve the reduction of malaria transmission and other mosquito-borne diseases by developing technologies that use this information to stop mosquitoes.
Receptors on mosquito neurons have a significant role in the insects’ ability to identify people who present an attractive source of a blood meal. They detect odours mostly through their antennae. This is according to Christopher Potter, Ph.D., the associate professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Scientists have long observed that variations in odours, heat, humidity, and carbon dioxide are factors in attracting mosquitoes to some individuals more than others. However, the insects use multiple senses to find hosts.
Anopheles gambiae, a family of mosquitoes that cause malaria, has three types of receptors that stud the surface of neurons in their organs that sense odour: odorant, gustatory, and ionotropic receptors. Odorant receptors are the most well-studied by scientists and help mosquitoes distinguish between animals and humans. Gustatory receptors detect carbon dioxide, while ionotropic receptors respond to acids and amines, compounds found on human skin. Different levels of particular acids on human skin may be a reason for some people being more attractive to mosquitoes than others.
Because of the potential for ionotropic receptors to guide a mosquito to prefer one type of human skin over another, Potter and postdoctoral researchers Joshua Raji and Joanna Konopka looked for them in mosquito antennae. They found the majority of ionotropic receptors in the distal part of the antennae, but they also found that the antennae had more ionotropic receptors in the proximal part of the mosquitoes. All told, Potter says his team’s experiments show that mosquito antennae are more complex than previously thought.
Potter suspects that the ability of ionotropic receptor-expressing neurons to be both activated and inhibited by odours may allow mosquitoes to increase the range of responses ionotropic receptors can play in odour detection and in driving behaviours. Future studies will focus on identifying the specific ionotropic receptors that cause mosquitoes to be attracted to human odours.
Mosquitoes cause a lot of harm and are responsible for transmitting many diseases. However, there are many ways to prevent mosquito bites and protect yourself and your family from mosquito-borne diseases. The following prevention practices may be useful:
The discovery of specialised receptors on mosquito nerve cells that help them detect particularly “welcoming” odours in human skin is a significant breakthrough in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases. By understanding the molecular biology of mosquito odour-sensing, researchers can develop new ways to prevent mosquito bites and the diseases they cause. This could have a tremendous impact on global health, particularly in areas where mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent.
With this knowledge, scientists can work towards developing new insect repellents and attractants that specifically target these receptors, making them more effective and targeted in preventing mosquito bites. Additionally, this discovery could potentially lead to the development of new strategies to control mosquito populations and reduce the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases.
Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is essential to preventing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. The mosquitoes that spread malaria infections, as evidenced, use smells to identify a host to bite. With the newly discovered molecular biology of mosquito odour-sensing, researchers can develop more effective ways to prevent these bites.
Many products that use toxic chemicals to stop these bugs use this behaviour to their advantage. But did you know there are now completely safe and non-toxic ways to stop mosquitoes biting you because of the odour they sense from your skin? This is how Mozzie Patches work.
The patches contain only Vitamin B1, a beneficial vitamin all humans need, and no toxic ingredients. This vitamin is best absorbed through the skin, and so any excess of vitamin B1 is expelled through the skin, too. This expelled vitamin B1, which your body doesn’t need, smells bad to mosquitoes. As a result, they avoid you. You can get your own Mozzie Patches today at our online store to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito-borne diseases.