Mosquitoes: how these insects “smell” you before biting you

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A study reveals how mosquitoes pick up human scent in order to locate their future meal. Information that could improve the fight against diseases transmitted by their bites.

“Bzzzzziiiiiiiiiiii”! “Boom!” When summer arrives, the scene repeats itself for millions of people. A high-pitched buzzing in the ear, sometimes a stinging sensation and the hand falling, often without success, on the mosquito in search of a meal.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Cell, the mosquito would pick up the body odor of the human being in order to locate it, relays the Guardian. And for this, he would use several channels, unlike other animals.

Meg Younger, assistant professor of biology at Boston University and one of the authors of the study, explains to the British media: “We found that there is a real difference in the way mosquitoes code odors they encounter compared to what we have learned from other animals.”

Researchers looked at odor receptors in mosquito antennae, details the Guardian. While in other animals only one type of odor receptor is found in each neuron, in the mosquito “different receptors can respond to different odors in the same neuron,” Meg Younger explains to the journal. In the event of the loss of one or more receptors, the mosquito is therefore still capable of picking up human odor.

Repellents that could target receptors

A discovery that could be a plus in the fight against diseases transmitted by their bites, such as malaria, dengue or malaria. “If we could use this knowledge to understand how human scent is represented in mosquito antennae and brains, we could develop mixtures that are more attractive to mosquitoes than we are. We could also develop repellents that target receptors and mosquitoes. neurons that detect human odors”, explained Meg Younger to the British daily.

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