Mosquitoes spread fatal diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever that kill at least half a million people each year via their bite. It is known that only females of dipteran parasites seek a blood meal.
Blood is a source of more concentrated and beneficial nutrients such as lipids, but above all, female mosquitoes eat blood, as they need the protein in blood to develop eggs.
Female mosquitoes therefore need to distinguish between the sweet nectar they eat for most of their meals and the blood they gorge on before laying their eggs. It was not yet known on a way they distinguish the tastes of these two substances.
Now American researchers found female mosquitoes have two feeding modes that use different mouthparts and detect different flavours.
Researchers at The Rockefeller University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Johns Hopkins University genetically modified mosquitoes with a fluorescent tag that glowed when a nerve cell was activated. Then they watched which cells in the stylet lit up in response to different meals.
It was revealed, a nectar-feeding mode detects sugars, and a blood-feeding mode uses a syringe-like “stylet” to pierce the skin and taste blood.
The mosquitoes were tricked into the blood-feeding mode by offering them a mix of four compounds – glucose, sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and adenosine triphosphate.
Experts say they hope that a better understanding of mosquitoes’ senses will ultimately lead to new ways to develop drugs that can save us from mosquito bites.
As a result, it is expected to stop spreading mosquito-vectored diseases that cause the deaths of many people in the world.
Currently, in addition to genetic mutations, essential oils from plants such as cherry, clove, valerian, eucalyptus, lavender, thyme, geranium and mint are considered effective in keeping mosquitoes away.