Another summer has passed, we've closed up our grills after Labor Day, and some of us are still scratching our bug bites. Is this some sort of conspiracy? Because when it come to mosquitoes, some of us get bitten more than others. And how do these pesky bugs sniff out humans with the tastiest blood? It turns out they have more than one set of odor sniffers. This may help scientists develop better mosquito REPELLANT.
Researcher Jason Pitts says, "There is a good chance that this [newly discovered] set of receptors may be specifically tuned to detect a number of the odorants given off by humans. If this is the case then it is quite likely that it will play a critical role in attempts to develop improved lures and repellents to control the spread of malaria."
The basic problem facing the mosquito searching for human prey (and the humans who are trying to figure out how it does it) is that none of the hundreds of odors given off by humans are necessarily unique. They are produced by the bacteria that live on human skin, but these bacteria live on other animals as well, so the current theory is that mosquitoes must identify a blend of different smells that provide a unique signature for humans.
Pharmacologist Laurence Zwiebel says, "It's not at all surprising that the mosquito's olfactory system is more sophisticated than we thought. Olfaction (smell) is absolutely essential to the mosquito. If the female cannot find a host for a blood meal she cannot reproduce. As a result, mosquitoes have developed an uncanny ability to detect odors. This is true of all species of mosquitoes, so it is highly likely that the mosquitoes that spread West Nile, dengue fever, yellow fever and encephalitis also have similar sets of odor sensors."
But as long as they still have their smellers intact, we'll just have to swat them. But when it comes to other flying critters, we need to try to understand them, not just shoot them down. It's a case of survival for this website too: Sometimes we get blue because so few of our listeners support us. Yet despite having no advertising on other media, we have 60% more readers and listeners than we did a year ago, through word-of-mouth alone. Now if only more of them would subscribe today, there's a chance we might still be here tomorrow! Art credit: Dreamstime.com
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