How to Stop Mosquitos From Eating You Alive, Maybe

A new approach might be able to prevent the disease-carrying insects from biting.

(Getty Images)
Getty Images

Mosquitos, they’re just like us — kind of.

After discovering that female mosquitos lapse into a very human-like food coma when they’re full of blood and become disinterested in human hosts, researchers decided to focus on the bug’s appetite-controlling protein, NPY, The Atlantic reported. In humans, the protein drives us to eat but, as scientists from Rockefeller University found, it does the opposite in mosquitoes, suppressing their appetite.

In an experiment, researcher Laura Duvall fed a human appetite suppressant made out of NPY to a group of mosquitos and put the insects in a trap that was baited at one end with a stocking that she had worn on her arm.

“The whole thing started off as a joke,” Leslie Vosshall, who led the study, told the magazine. “The assumption was that the human drugs would kill the animal or have no effect. It was a stupid thing.”

But after swallowing drugs that stimulate NPY receptors, their attraction to her scent fell by 80%. They hadn’t drunk any blood, but they were behaving like mosquitoes that had.

By contrast, drugs that block NPY receptors had the opposite effect. “This was the first time we’d ever seen a blood-fed mosquito getting up off the floor of its cage, staggering around with a full belly, and trying to bite someone,” Vosshall says. “Surprises and successes in biology are few and far between, so that was a good week for us.”

In order to actually get the drug into the general mosquito population, researchers envision utilizing current traps put in place to lure them in and drug them up.

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