The method looks promising to combat baby-borne diseases, but the practical barriers remain.
Thiamine pills, urine in the bites, Caladryl and mud are some of the tips that popular culture has to avoid mybid. However, scientists at Rockefeller University discovered an unusual way to prevent mosquitoes from biting: "diet" medications to trick them into making them feel full.
The results of his research were published on February 7 in Cell magazine, and since then he has spoken. "It's an excellent study," says Clare Strode, a mosquito biologist at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, UK, in the journal Nature. There is a long way to go before the method can be used in nature, he says, but "as a matter of principle it is very promising."
"They can hardly fly," says Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University, who led the study to the NPR. She hopes to control the mosquito's appetite and the diseases they transmit.
Vosshall and his team demonstrated how human dietary substances extinguish the mosquito's blood dryness for several days, making them less likely to feed on humans and spread diseases and also produce fewer offspring.
"When they are hungry, these mosquitoes are motivated, they fly towards a human's scent in the same way that we could turn to a chocolate cake," says Vosshall. "But after they got the drug, they lost interest."
It seems like this: The females of Aedes aegypti, like other types of mosquitoes, feed on the blood to obtain the protein they need to produce their eggs (moreover, they spread diseases such as dengue or malaria). But when they are satisfied, they stop chopping until they put their eggs several days later.
Vosshall wondered if he could hijack this biological process to extinguish a mosquito's appetite.
According to the journal Nature, previous research had suggested that a mosquito's desire to feed itself is controlled by neuropeptides, molecules used by the nervous system to communicate2. Vosshall and his team suspect that neuropeptide Y receptors (NPY) may be particularly important because they are part of the molecular pathway involved in food follow-up behavior for many animals, including humans.
Some human appetite suppressants are already targeting NPY receptors, so Vosshall decided to adopt a "completely bizarre" approach: feeding these drugs to mosquitoes and seeing what's happening.
His hypothesis worked: Mosquitoes feeding on a solution containing NPY-activating drugs were less likely to approach an anxious "decoy" than the control group, and their appetite remained suppressed for two days.
But a commercial opportunity to prevent mosquitoes from biting and spreading diets based on diet is still in its infancy. Since the pills are designed for use in humans, the researchers fear that a method of controlling mosquitoes in nature could not rely on a human substance that could have unintended effects on humans.
Therefore, the Vosshall team began analyzing hundreds of thousands of small molecules to find one that would activate the NPYLR7 receptor in mosquitoes. Finally, they identified six promising drugs capable of suppressing the appetite of the mosquito. According to the NPR account, the most powerful composition is that the identified team should be administered at a very high concentration to affect the behavior of the mosquitoes, which would make its implementation expensive.