New findings on the brain of the mosquito might help researchers get closer to combating mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria and yellow fever, which still harm millions of people. The study reveals mosquitoes’ scent based host seeking mechanism.
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The process by which female mosquitoes select their victims using scent has been discovered by an international research team.
Researchers from Princeton University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) discovered that when mosquitos detect the scent of humans, a particular section in their brain is activated.
Mosquitoes seem to have distinct preferences for humans and animals, although it is unclear why or how they differentiate amongst both. It is now conceivable to provide responses to the question using scent samples from humans and many animal species.
The problematic thing was that human odor comprises of hundreds of different compounds, and that most mammalian scents contain the same molecules, although in subtly different quantities. Furthermore, none of these compounds are particularly attractive to mosquitos, thus the task was to figure out what exact combination of components mosquitos utilize to detect human scent.
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The researchers took scent samples from humans and animals (including a dog, hamster, rat, sheep, and quail) and looked at how these “odour profiles” are made up and varied. They also created tools for visualizing activity patterns in the portions of the mosquito brain that process nerve impulses from all of the smell receptors on the female mosquito’s antennae.
According to Ignell, a chemical ecology researcher, “The part of the brain that is activated when stimulated with human scent differs from the part that reacts when we stimulated with animal scents.”
While some mosquito species are not picky about who they feed their blood to and can feed on almost any warm-blooded animal, others have evolved an exceedingly precise “navigation system” to feed solely on human blood. These can spread infections like Zika, dengue fever, and yellow fever, which are all serious and potentially lethal.
Finally, the researchers created an artificial fragrance that activated the same particular activity pattern in the mosquito brain as genuine human odor.
The findings could also be used to generate novel fragrance mixes for mosquito monitoring and control, perhaps aiding in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases, which impact millions of people each year.