Riverside, CA: Mosquito-Blocking Chemicals Discovered By UC Riverside Researchers

Three chemicals that block mosquitoes from finding human beings have been discovered by researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

The discovery may help prevent some of the 1 million annual deaths from mosquito-carried diseases such as malaria and dengue. More than half a billion people are infected by mosquitoes each year.

The chemicals disrupt the ability of mosquitoes to sense carbon dioxide, the main signal used by mosquitoes to find their prey. It’s effective against three deadly mosquito species, Anopheles gambiae, which spreads malaria; Aedes aegypi, which spreads dengue and yellow fever; and Culex quinquefasciatus, which spreads filariasis and West Nile Virus.

The researchers have built a company around the discovery, which is still in the formative stages. Lead researcher Anandasankar Ray of UCR said potential applications include mosquito-blocking products and cheaper lures to draw away mosquitoes.

Ray and colleagues published their findings Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature. (Payment required to read full article.)

The research follows up on a 2009 study in Nature by Ray and colleague Stephanie Lynn Turner, also of UCR. They demonstrated that the carbon dioxide-sensing mechanism of mosquitoes is the same as used in fruit flies.

The difference is that fruit flies avoid carbon dioxide, which is often emitted by predators, while mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide. Ray and Turner explained how the same mechanism could be put to greatly different uses.

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