Scientists create MUTANT mosquitoes that are immune to the smell of human flesh
Mosquitoes that are genetically engineered not to smell humans could offer sweet relief to those of us who spend our summer holidays plagued by itchy bites.
Mosquitos carry many diseases including Malaria – an incredibly dangerous parasite that results in more than 400,000 deaths worldwide every year.
The mosquitoes that are most effective when it comes to transmitting diseases are those that have become highly attuned to feeding on humans.
Efforts to prevent the spread of malaria by killing mosquitoes with insecticides are proving problematic, because they quickly become resistant to the chemicals.
Now the US Department of Defence has awarded a million dollar grant to insect specialists Andrew Nuss and Dennis Mathew, to create genetically engineered mosquitoes that are not attracted to people.
The technique involves identifying the smell receptors that mosquitoes use to detect human flesh, and switching them off, or replacing them with other smell receptors that make them attracted to other animals.
“[Mosquitoes] have become co-adapted to us because we live in these nice, concentrated cities where they can find lots of people to feed on,” Nuss said.
“They preferentially feed on humans, and their odorant receptors may be attuned to human odors, specifically.
“So, we want to tweak that system by either knocking out the receptors that are responsible for human feeding, or replacing them with receptors from other mosquito species that feed on other animals in the environment.”
The scientists claim that if mosquitos can be genetically modified to avoid feeding on humans and instead on other animals, this could break the human-mosquito-human transmission cycle.
Unlike insecticides, which are designed to kill mosquitoes, this technique would help to prevent the spread of malaria and other diseases without disrupting the food chain.
“Our research is an approach where the mosquitoes still get to survive in an environment just as long as they are not biting humans,” said Nuss.
“Preventing the spread of disease is the ultimate goal.”