Mosquitoes: spawn of the underworld. Disrupter of idyllic summer moments. But a solution may be at hand in the ongoing war against these increasingly DEET-resistant pests.
Scientists have genetically engineered mosquitoes without the desire for human blood. While many mosquito species are generalists when it comes to their food preference, two strains, Anopheles gambiae and Aedes aegypti, have evolved a strong preference for humans. This makes them particularly potent carriers of diseases such as malaria and Dengue fever.
"By disrupting a single gene, we can fundamentally confuse the mosquito from its task of seeking humans," said study author Leslie Vosshall, a neurogeneticist at The Rockefeller University in New York.
Vosshall and her team discovered that a single gene, the orco gene, was responsible for the mosquito’s ability to detect odors. Once disrupted using genetic engineering techniques, the mutant Aedes aegypti were no longer able to differentiate between animal and human scents, though they remained drawn to the CO2 that naturally emanates from any living body.
With any luck, this research will lead to new and better repellants, striking another blow for humanity.