use of mosquitoes specialized receptors located on your nerve cells to identify which humans have “tastier” blood, according to a new study that aims to explain why some of us seem to get bitten more than others.
In research published in the journal Cell Reportsscientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have identified ionotropic receptors in mosquito neurons that help insects pick up favorable odors on human skin. They do this by detecting different levels of amino acids particular species, some of which are more attractive to mosquitoes than others.
“Understanding the molecular biology of mosquito odor detection is critical to developing new ways to avoid bites and the annoying diseases they cause”explained Christopher Potter, study co-author and associate professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
This is how mosquitoes select humans
In the world, there are about 3600 species of mosquitoes, many of which feed by biting and sucking the blood of a host animal. The vast majority of mosquito species do not feed on humans, but those that do are known to spread a range of deadly diseases, such as malaria, dengue and West Nile virus. Together, these diseases affect 700 million people each year and kill an estimated 750,000.
Some species spread diseases such as West Nile virus, malaria or dengue, which kill around 750,000 people each year.
Variations in odors, heat, humidity and carbon dioxide are all factors that can attract mosquitoes to some people more than others. Insects detect odors primarily using their antennae, although researchers have found that several senses play a role in locating a host.
A species that causes malaria, anopheles gambiaefor example, it has three types of receptors on its neurons to perceive odors: odoriferous, gustatory and ionotropic. Olfactory receptors help distinguish between humans and other animals, while gustatory receptors detect carbon dioxide.
The different levels of acids and amines found in our skin may be responsible for mosquitoes’ predilection for certain people.
Ionotropic receptors detect acids and amines, compounds commonly found in human skin, and are the different levels of these that can be responsible for a mosquito choosing to bite a person instead of another.
Discoveries could improve mosquito repellents
Taking this hypothesis into account, the study’s researchers looked for the presence of ionotropic receptors on the antennae of 10 male and 10 female mosquitoes. Yes well only females biteSince they use blood to develop their eggs, some research suggests that males are also attracted to human odors.
Using a technique known as fluorescent in situ hybridization, the team found that mosquito antennae had more ionotropic receptors near the insect’s headrather than lengthwise, confirming that mosquito antennae are more complex than previously thought.
Through further study, the team hopes to identify the specific ionotropic receptors responsible for attracting certain people to mosquitoes. That could help in the development of better repellents to eliminate the attraction of odors, which is one of the most effective means of preventing bites.