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Scientists Develop New Insecticide to Fight Off Mosquitoes

By Quinn Fucile | Apr 02, 2015 03:13 PM EDT

Most people care about animals, some are even vegetarians or vegans, but not many people care about insects. Still, no insectgets so much active hate as the mosquito. There are literally teams of brilliant people around the world that do nothing but think of creative and effective ways to kill, or otherwise destroy mosquitoes. And you shouldn't feel bad for them, mosquito borne illnesses kill or otherwise affect millions of people around the world.

Researchers from Purdue have been experimenting with a new class of insecticides in the fight against mosquitoes. (via EurekaAlert) This is desperately needed, because current methods aren't extremely effective and are getting worse. Antibiotics and other medications that are sometimes used to treat mosquito borne illnesses are beginning to become ineffective, as these pathogens evolve resistance. Similarly, some mosquitoes are showing resistance to conventional pesticides. These generic pesticides also have unwanted environmental impacts on humans and other insects.

What these researchers are attempting to do is develop a highly effective, and selective compounds. They think they have a great candidate in the form of a dopamine receptor antagonist. You may have heard of dopamine because it's also a primary neurotransmitter in the human brain, among most other animals brains. However, they are specifically testing and analyzing 200 such compounds for specificity to mosquitoes.

Right now, their best candidate is extremely effective at binding to receptors in mosquitoes, but bad at binding to receptors in humans and even other insects. Once this compound is introduced, it blocks dopamine receptors and interferes with a variety of brain functions. In both adult and larval mosquitoes, it interferes with things such as motor control and any complex behavior. It also interferes with other cell signaling and development, which can eventually kill them.

They were able to find this specific compound by in part analyzing the genome of the mosquito. Currently they're working with the species of mosquito that carries diseases like yellow and dengue fever. Because dopamine receptor antagonist can be so selective, the plan is to develop similar compounds for other targets. This includes the mosquitoes that carry West Nile, malaria, and even other insects that carry devastating human diseases.

The hope is that these kinds of insecticides will be extremely safe for the environment, ignoring beneficial insects such as honeybees. While at the same time effectively killing the species that can cause so much human death and misery. 

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