Public Release: 

NIH-funded researchers find new ways to confuse blood-seeking mosquitoes

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Female blood-feeding mosquitoes, some species of which can transmit deadly diseases such as malaria and dengue to humans, largely find their human blood meals by detecting carbon dioxide emitted when people exhale. In a new study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, a research team led by Anandasankar Ray of the University of California, Riverside, identified three types of odor molecules that disrupt the carbon dioxide-sensing machinery of mosquitoes. One molecule switches the mosquitoes' olfactory nerves "on" for prolonged periods, one turns the olfactory nerves "off" and a third type mimics carbon dioxide.

According to the researchers, their finding could lead to a new generation of repellents and lures that might help prevent mosquito-borne human diseases such as yellow fever and West Nile virus as well as malaria and dengue. Experts agree that new mosquito deterrents are needed because the most effective existing repellent, known as DEET, is expensive, impractical in tropical regions and toxic if used inappropriately.

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ARTICLE: Ultra-prolonged activation of CO2-sensing neurons disorients mosquitoes. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature10081 (2011).

WHO: Adriana Costero-Saint Denis, Ph.D., vector biology program officer in NIAID's Parasitology and International Programs Branch, is available to comment on this article.

CONTACT: To schedule interviews, please contact Ann Mosher, (301) 402-1663, niaidnews@niaid.nih.gov.

NIAID conducts and supports research--at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide--to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov/.

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