Researchers have discovered a way to reduce the need for mosquitoes to bite by feeding on human diet drugs.
The study named “Small-Molecule Agonists of Ae. aegypti Neuropeptide Y Receptor Block Mosquito Biting” was published in the journal Cell on 7th February 2019.
According to this, researchers have discovered a way to reduce the thirst of mosquitoes that helps in preventing them from biting humans. This, in turn, will help in preventing mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, dengue fever, malaria and chikungunya.
Though very tiny in size, female mosquito is one of the most dangerous animals on the planet Earth. The microbes transmitted by these mosquitoes cause a number of diseases and kills millions of people every year.
But the scientists from Rockefeller University have discovered a way to stop the female mosquitoes from biting at all. The researchers conducted a study on Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. This species of mosquitoes is popular for causing illnesses like dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
These mosquitoes are very much attracted to human blood because it contains the proteins needed by the female mosquitoes to produce eggs. Once they are fed and they feel full, bloated mosquitoes are safe as they show no or minimal signs of re-attacking for several days.
The researchers at Rockefeller University believed that the Neuropeptide Y or NPY receptors that regulate food intake in humans could also do the same to mosquitoes. Hence, researchers fed female mosquitoes saline solution doped with drugs that activate human NPY receptors. As a result, their attraction towards human blood seemed to be lowered.
The scientists conducted the same study on all 47 types of receptors and found that NPYLR7 was indeed the only receptor that caused a reduction in the need to bite in female mosquitoes.
But NPYLR7 was not safe to be used around humans as it might trigger human NPY receptors also. So they finally settled on “compound 18”- a molecule that suppressed Aedes’ host-seeking behavior with no off-target effects. This compound showed the same results as NPYLR7 without triggering human receptors.
“We were impressed and amazed that drugs designed to affect human appetite worked perfectly to suppress mosquito appetite,” said Leslie B. Vosshall, Robin Chemers Neustein Professor.
Laura Duvall, the postdoctoral fellow who led the project says, “It’s like the ultimate Thanksgiving dinner”.
The findings of Rockefeller University has long-term usefulness for both future research and for vector control. Now after knowing the receptor for turning down the mosquitoes need to feed, scientists can now start working on finding the location where it is produced in an insect’s body.
According to IS Global Barcelona Institute for Global Health, mosquitoes kill more than 700,000 people every year and also lead to approximately 17% of infectious diseases globally.
This study done by Rockefeller University can help in decreasing this number and prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses.