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Component in human sweat attracts mosquitoes

Researchers have discovered why mosquitoes are attracted to, and find, people who sweat. The discovery can lead to more effective repellents and traps.
Aedes aegypti.
The researchers have studied Aedes aegypti. Photo: Alex Wild

Female mosquitoes rely on heat, dampness and body odour in their search for blood. Researchers from Lund University have together with colleagues from the US found that the component in sweat that the mosquitoes are identify and are attracted to is lactic acid.

The researchers have studied Aedes aegypti and the olfactory receptor Ir8a located on the antenna. The results show that when the Ir8a-gene does not work a mosquito is much less prone to bite.

The researchers have used the method CRISPR/Cas9 in order to disturb Ir8a and they have found that mosquitoes that carry a mutated copy of Ir8a no longer are attracted by the odour of lactic acid.

According to Nadia Melo and Marcus Stensmyr, researchers at the Department of Biology in Lund, the discovery is one more step on the way to find more effective repellents.

”By adding scents that mask the odour of lactic acid, and thereby make Ir8a irrelevant, people can ”disappear” from the mosquitoes’ field of vision even when they sweat”, Marcus Stensmyr says.

The research team aim at developing a scent, a sort of a perfume, that protects people againt being bitten by mosquitoes and hence lessen the risk of being infected with diseases like malaria, yellow fever, zika and dengue.

The discovery might also contribute to improved mosquito traps.

The study is published in an article in Current Biology.
Jan Olsson

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