California Scientits Find new Substances to Fight Mosquitoes
The sound of a mosquito can mean trouble in many parts of the
world. The bite of the mosquito can be deadly. The insects carry
serious diseases like malaria. The World Health Organization
estimates that almost 630,000 people died from malaria and
malaria-related causes in 2012, most of these cases were in African
countries south of the Saharan desert.
In the United States, scientists are seeking new ways to fight
malaria. A group of California scientists is working to develop a
more effective and less costly substances to protect people from
The researchers work at the University of California Riverside.
They are investigating the sense of smell in mosquitoes. They found
the insects use the same receptor for identifying carbon dioxide in
human breath as they do for the smell of our skin.
Anandasankar Ray is leading the investigation. He says
scientists tested more than a million chemical compounds until they
found a substance called Ethyl pyruvate. He says Ethyl pyruvate
makes the mosquitoes' receptor inactive.
"When we apply Ethyl pyruvate to a human arm and offer it to
hungry mosquitoes in a cage, then very few of the mosquitoes are
attracted to the human arm because only a few of them are able to
smell it out," said Ray.
Genevieve Tauxe is a member of the UC Riverside research team.
She says it was not easy to find the neurons of noble cells that
recognise both the smell of human breath and skin. She describes a
device the researchers are using to examine mosquitoes.
The scientists use these instruments to look for the signals
that a mosquito's neurons send to its brain when it finds an
interesting smell. Computer screen images show when the sense is
strong or weak.
Anandasankar Ray says a product based on Ethyl pyruvate may cost
less to manufacture than DEET, the most effective chemical
treatment now in use. He says DEET is too costly for most people
who live in areas affected by malaria.