Scientists develop human diet drugs to prevent mosquitos

Modesto Morganelli
Febbraio 9, 2019

When fed on blood, these mosquitoes may not take another blood meal in days, they explain. The effects of a dose wear off after a few days and the compound would need to be administered to millions of mosquitoes to make a dent.

Aedes aegypti mosquito on human skin.

Giving mosquitoes diet drugs could stop them from spreading disease by curbing their craving for human blood, research suggests.

In the experiment, they fed mosquitoes with a saline solution with the drugs that activate NPY receptors in humans and observed how the mosquitoes' willingness to fly toward a stocking that was worn long enough to absorb human scents dropped, as though they just had a big meal.

"We were impressed and amazed that drugs created to affect human appetite worked perfectly to suppress mosquito appetite", said Vosshall, Robin Chemers Neustein Professor.

The team then tested all of the mosquitoes' neuropeptide receptors with the diet drugs to discover which particular one was responsible for controlling and switching off a mosquito's appetite. But the human drugs they used to manipulate the receptor in the lab wouldn't be suitable for use in the wild, where they might affect people as well as mosquitoes.

Instead, they began searching for molecules that would selectively activate NPYLR7 without triggering human NPY receptors. But what if they stopped biting?

So for their final test, the researchers let the mosquitoes loose on a live mouse. With this knowledge the team could next learn where this neuropeptie reseptors lay and how they could be controlled to get the mosquitoes off human blood. The researchers plan to use this information to find out where the receptor is produced in the insects' body and how it is activated to control feeding behaviour. (Although they still do not know exactly which naturally occurring neuropeptides activate NPYLR7, Duvall and her colleagues now have a list of nine possible candidates.) That, in turn, will help them trace the larger neural circuits that govern the mosquito's feeding behavior.

Leo Braack, senior vector control specialist from the Malaria Consortium, said that these findings "represent a new direction for intervening in contact between disease-carrying mosquitoes and their human hosts" and "humanity urgently needs new tools to stem the tide of rising mosquito-borne infections".

That said, the researchers focused on the Aedes aegypti species, and there are still other mosquito species and insects that can spread diseases. It seems likely that a compound that suppresses Ae.

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