WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Researchers have discovered how to shield humans from mosquito bites — by making them invisible to the blood-sucking insetcs.
- The scientists used “gene-editing” technology to deactivate the light receptors in the eyes of the mosquitoes, making them partially ‘blind.’
- Mosquitoes are responsible for infecting millions of people with deadly diseases such as dengue, Zika and West Nile virus each year.
Scientists announced that they found a way for humans to become invisible from mosquitoes.
Published in the journal Current Biology, the paper reveals that scientists use a gene-editing tool called Crispr-Cas9 to make humans almost invisible in the eyes of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
To prevent the mosquitoes to visually track humans, scientists disable two of the light-sensing receptors in the insects’ eyes, scientists can Craig Montell, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said. Montell, a co-author of the study, told The New York Times that if female mosquitoes are unable to track a host, they will fly straight to what seems to be the next closest target.
“They can also detect some of the organic cues from our skin,” Montrell told the Times, citing heat, humidity and stench as the main culprits.
During the experiment, the scientists would exhale carbon dioxide at the end of a wind tunnel they developed to determine if certain groups of mosquitoes would successfully track the host. After testing two proteins they suspected to be in play, Montell and lead author Yinpeng Zhan eliminated them both from one set of test subjects to see if they would still have their ability to sense dark objects, People reported.
It turned out, the mosquitoes didn’t. Further tests revealed they weren’t entirely blind either.
If mosquitoes will not be able to detect humans, the species’ population “would crash,” suggested Montell, because females will struggle to find the blood necessary for reproduction.
Each year, mosquitoes are responsible for infecting millions with deadly diseases such as dengue, Zika and West Nile virus.
“The better we understand how they sense the human, the better we can control the mosquito in an eco-friendly manner,” Zhan told the Times.
Scientists discovered in 1937 that this specific species of mosquito was particularly attracted to darker-colored clothes. Experts have recommended for decades to avoid wearing darker-colored garments while doing outdoor activities in the evening.