With summer hitting full stride, Americans everywhere are outside enjoying all of the fun the balmy weather promises. But we’re not the only creatures buzzing about in the warm, summer air. Mosquitoes are out in full force, looking for treats of their own — specifically, your blood.
Fear not, you’re not alone in seeking ways to keep them away from you. Scientists are finding clues to battling biting skeeters by using genetic research and testing. And, you’ll be happy to hear, they’re having some success.
Female mosquitoes, by the way, are the ones that drink blood — males are vegetarians. The females need the blood to produce eggs and they employ an array of sensory information, including carbon dioxide, body odor, sweat and visual cues, to find their next meal.
How these cues enable the mosquitoes to find us is still largely unknown, but scientists at Florida International University have discovered that different genes work together to help mosquitoes find their human buffet tables. By using new technology known as CRISPR-Cas9, they tweaked the genes of several sets of mosquitoes. They found some of these mosquitoes lost their sensitivity to lactic acid and other compounds in humans’ sweat that distinguish people from other possible targets.
The next step is to learn more about how mosquitoes sense humans and how they integrate these cues and process the information through their central nervous system, and then use it to target people.
The goal? To develop some sort of perfume that would make humans invisible to mosquitoes. But, at the moment, they’re still just scratching the surface of the problem.