A new study published in the journal Neuron by researchers from The Rockefeller University in New York City figured out the compounds in the human blood that attract mosquitoes and how they can detect it. Their study potentially paves the way for a drug that can mask the tempting flavor of human blood.
Using genetically modified female mosquitoes as well as mixtures and concoctions, they were able to determine that the needle-like stylet the insects used in sucking out the blood does the tasting. It is packed with neurons that detect the blood's ingredients and trigger intense blood-sucking habits of mosquitoes.
Only female mosquitoes suck blood because they need it for their eggs to develop, but like many insects, they primarily survive on nectar from plants. However, sucking human blood makes the deadliest animal on the planet, bringing deadly diseases like malaria, dengue, and yellow fever.
Testing Blood Recipes On Mosquitoes
The scientists tested different blood recipes containing human blood and sugary mixes like nectar on female mosquitoes to see their response. They discovered that mosquitoes are like bees and other insects that taste and drink nectar. However, compared to the blood, they do not suck nectar with the same enthusiasm, BGR reported.
"When a female mosquito punctures the skin, she sucks so hard that the capillaries sometimes collapse," said Leslie Vosshall of The Rockefeller University, the co-author of the stud. "It's a behavior she specifically reserves for blood."
The researchers found that the stylet of mosquitoes are activated when they encounter different components of the blood. Some of it was triggered when it comes to close contact with salt or sugar, but it is different from the blood that fake concoctions of blood do not easily fool them.
But when adenosine triphosphate, glucose, salt, sodium bicarbonate is added to the fake blood, mosquitoes began sucking the liquid quickly. The researchers think that the mosquitoes' neurons must be triggered to each ingredient before they drive in for a full-belly meal.
That means the needle-like appendage of mosquitoes is the ones that do the tasting. The scientists have called it the "syringe that can taste blood."
Developing Oral Mosquito Repellant
Voshall said that their research could eventually lead to an oral mosquito repellant that would interfere with the blood's taste, Metro reported.
Veronica Jove, one of the authors of the study, said that if mosquitoes do not taste the blood, then it could prevent them from transmitting deadly diseases.
However, Voshall noted that it would be impossible to know the human blood could possibly taste for mosquitoes. She compared it to how honeybees see in ultraviolet hues that humans cannot see or how sonar waves can be heard by bats that humans cannot.
She said that there is nothing similar in humans that is comparable to the experience of mosquitoes when they suck blood.
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