We know that many diet pills work by suppressing a person’s appetite, but what if the same method could be used to get mosquitos to stop biting? That was the question that Laura Duvall from Rockefeller University asked a few years ago. In a study led by Professor Leslie Vosshall at the same university, they embarked on an experimental study to find the answer. It was all done for fun and half-jokingly, and they didn’t really expect much except maybe that the drug might kill the insects. To their shock and amazement, the treatment actually worked in reducing the mosquitos’ appetite for blood by about 80%!
Mosquito Control Challenges
Many hot and humid parts of the world, such as those in tropical climates, deal with very high mosquito populations. These insects are, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the deadliest animals in the world. This is because many mosquitos bite people to feed on human blood. In so doing, they spread dangerous diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika virus, and dengue. Much has been done through the decades to contain the spread of these life-threatening illnesses, but there is still much that needs to be done to bring down the high number of casualties.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito was used in the study. This deadly hunter is found in areas where more than half of the world’s population lives. The female mosquito spreads Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. It finds human blood by tracking down the odor, heat, and exhalations that human beings produce. After feeding, this insect goes into a food-induced coma for days on end.
The researchers are exploring this phenomenon using a protein known as neuropeptide Y which attaches to receptors in the mosquito and suppresses its appetite. The results so far are very promising, but one of the issues for concern is that the chemical treatment wears off.
Alexandra grew up dreaming of being a great science explorer. She always wanted to travel the world and explore some of the greatest science mysteries of the times. After high school, she studied chemistry in college and spent most of her summers working on research projects alongside her professors. It was there that Alexandra got clarity about what she wanted to do in the future. She now works full time in science research at a teaching university and is planning to go to medical school in a few years. She likes to stay up-to-date with the latest discoveries in science and share her love for science through her writing.