Scientists Discover How Mosquitoes Find You

Posted on April 12, 2007

The BBC reports that scientists in New York have discovered the mechanism mosquitoes use to zero in on their targets. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide in exhaled breath. The scientists discovered that mosquitoes have protein receptors in their maxillary palp - a "finger-like structure extending from the jaws" - that helps them fixate on the exhaled carbon dioxide.
Lead researcher Professor Leslie Vosshall said: "Insects are especially sensitive to carbon dioxide, using it to track food sources and assess their surrounding environment.

"The neurons in insects that respond to carbon dioxide were already known, but the molecular mechanism by which these neurons sense this gas was a mystery.

"Though we don't know what other proteins might be involved in the signalling pathway, the identification of the carbon dioxide receptor provides a potential target for the design of inhibitors that would act as an insect repellent.

"These inhibitors would help fight global infectious disease by reducing the attraction of blood-feeding insects to humans."

Dr Simon Hay, an expert in malaria at the University of Oxford, said: "Curiously, the work could also open the opportunity for the development of attractants, used to lure mosquitoes away from humans."
There are already some mosquito devices - CO2 mosquito traps - that use CO2 to attract mosquitoes to the trap and then kill them. With this new information something even better might be imagined. The New York Times has an article discussing the kinds of mosquito traps available today.