Today, a team of biologists from the Laboratory of Exotic Genetics at the International University of Florida in the United States presented the results of their truly unusual study to examine how mosquitoes find living things and begin to feed on their blood. The fact is that despite the well-known established fact that mosquitoes perfectly capture lactic acid and sweat, which attract them to a source of food, scientists could not determine earlier what exactly this was due to. And now, bio-genetics experts have found the answer to this question of interest to many.
Studying several varieties of mosquitoes, they paid special attention to the species Aeges aegypti, which often carries and spreads some really dangerous diseases, such as Zika virus and malaria. Studying their genome and exploring genetic modifiers and relationships, scientists have discovered a hitherto unnoticed receptor gene called 8a or IR8a, which is its full name. This receptor gene is responsible for capturing lactic acid and human sweat, due to which the mosquito can quickly navigate the power source and begin to annoy its victim.
Experimenting with the expression of this gene, experts tried to establish whether violation of this gene would interfere with their daily diet – and it turned out that it would interfere, moreover. Despite the fact that even with a mutation of this receptor, mosquitoes could still find people by the heat source, nevertheless, the mutation significantly reduced their desire to eat blood – experiments showed that in this way we managed to repel up to half of the tested mosquitoes.
And this means, in turn, that specialists will soon be able to develop and test more effective options for drugs and agents for controlling insects and, in particular, mosquitoes, which, as already indicated, can often cause the spread of many dangerous diseases. Thus, specialists plan to continue experimenting with the IR8a gene receptor.