Scientists determine how mosquitoes are attracted to humans

Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health found certain nerve cells in mosquitoes that cause an attraction to the exhaled carbon dioxide of humans, according to a study published on Thursday in Cell.

The University of California at Riverside-based researchers studied Anopheles gambiae and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to determine that cpA neurons are sensitive detectors of human odors. The findings of the study could allow for better mosquito control and control of the diseases they transmit, like malaria and dengue.

The researchers used glass beads coated with human foot odor to stimulate mosquitoes. When the scientists used chemicals to inactivate the cpA neurons, the mosquitoes were not as attracted to the odor.

In follow-up experiments, the researchers screened more than 440,000 chemicals to find substances that interact with the proteins on the surface of cpA neurons. Out of thousands of chemicals with the right structure, the researchers tested 138 and found several that were inexpensive, pleasant-smelling, present in the natural environment and safe for human use.

Ethyl pyruvate, a fruity-scented compound, neutralized cpA neurons' ability to detect human foot odor. Cyclopentanone, a minty-smelling compound, worked by activating cpA neurons and attracted mosquitoes to a trap.

According to the authors, compounds like these may be developed into two complementary mosquito control approaches: masking the attraction of insects to humans and luring the mosquitoes away from humans or toward a trap.

Organizations in this Story

National Institutes of Health

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