Ever wondered why a mosquito bites you more than your wife? Well, the scientists of John Hopkins Medicine are claiming that they have mapped specialised receptors on the mosquito‘s nerve cells that are able to filter their ability to detect particularly “welcoming” odours in human skin.
According to scientists, receptors on mosquito’s neurons have an important role to play in its ability to detect people who present an attractive source of a “blood meal.”
Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus affect 700 million people and kill 750,000 each year across the world. The scientists maintain that the development of better repellants to sabotage odorant attraction should be a priority.
“Understanding the molecular biology of mosquito odor-sensing is key to developing new ways to avoid bites and the burdensome diseases they cause,” Christopher Potter, Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The mosquitoes detect odors mostly through their antennae, and scientists have observed that variations in odors, heat, humidity and carbon dioxide are factors in attracting mosquitos to some individuals more than others.
According to Potter, mosquitoes use multiple senses to find hosts. Anopheles gambiae, a family of mosquitoes that cause malaria, for example, has three types of receptors that stud the surface of neurons in their organs that sense odor: odorant, gustatory, and ionotropic receptors.
Potter emphasised that odorant receptors are extensively studied and they are thought to help mosquitoes distinguish between animals and humans.
“Gustatory receptors detect carbon dioxide. Ionotropic receptors respond to acids and amines, compounds found on human skin. It is thought that different levels of particular acids on human skin might be a reason for some people to be more attractive to mosquitoes than others,” Potter said. The findings of the study was published in February 28 issue of Cell Reports.
The scientists also found that the antennae had more receptors near the head. The researchers also found during their experiment that mosquito antennae are more complex than we previously thought them to be. According to Potter, future studies will focus on identifying the specific ionotropic receptors which are found in airway sensory nerve terminals that cause mosquitoes to be attracted to other humans.