How Do Mosquitoes Locate Their Human Meals New Research Has an Answer?

Mosquitoes are a swarming and biting nuisance, but they are also the deadliest creatures for people, since they transmit a variety of diseases and parasites. Some species of these flying death robots feed only on humans, yet they must have acquired precise targeting systems to discern between human and animal odours to be such an effective feeder. Researchers are now finding out how mosquitoes do it, and a recent study published in Nature may provide an answer to the riddle of what mosquito’s sense and how they detect it. 

“We went inside the mosquito’s brain and asked, ‘What can you smell?'” What gets your mind going? What’s causing your neurons to fire? And how does human odor vary from animal odor in terms of brain activation?’ According to Carolyn “Lindy” McBride, an associate professor of ecology, evolutionary biology, and neurology, Using CRISPR-Cas9, the researchers developed genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which are carriers of the Zika virus, dengue virus, yellow fever virus, and chikungunya virus. The scientists were able to examine the brains of these transgenic insects because their brains lighted up when they were active. The researchers next used a wind tunnel to transmit human and animal-flavored air to the mosquitos to see what piqued their interest.

Human odor is made up of a variety of chemicals, which are also found in most mammalian scents but in various proportions. Because the compounds are not appealing to mosquitoes on their own, one problem is to figure out the correct enticing compound ratios. To stimulate the mosquito’s hunger, the scientists employed odors from 16 people, two rats, two guinea pigs, two quail, one sheep, and four dogs. It was fascinating to see how they obtained these samples. Then had a farm contribute numerous fleeces for sheep, and they went to a grooming facility and collected clipped hairs from the adorable dogs.

Humans, on the other hand… “We have a number of fantastic volunteers for the human samples,” study author Jessica Zung stated. “We had them go a few days without showering, then strip nude and lie down in a Teflon bag.” “Why did the courageous human volunteers have to be naked?” you might wonder. Other textile fibers, on the other hand, might skew the results since they emit their own odor. They devised a sophisticated mechanism to blow odor at the genetically altered mosquitoes in the imaging setup area once they had recovered all of these odors.

The mosquito brain comprises 60 nerve centers called glomeruli, and the researchers thought that most of these centers would be engaged in assisting the mosquito in locating their next meal and distinguishing human odors from animal odors, but this was not the case. “I couldn’t believe it when I first saw the brain activity — only two glomeruli were engaged,” said Zhilei Zhao, a member of the study team. “Because that defied everything we expected, I repeated the experiment with more humans and animals. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s very easy.”

Mosquitoes recognize two compounds (decanal and undecanal) that are abundant in human odor and likely originate from distinct human skin lipids rather than perspiration, according to the tests. Overall, this fascinating joint study might aid in the creation of novel repellents. Allowing us to enjoy the fresh air without worry of having our blood taken by these nefarious creatures.