Experimental compound stops mosquitoes from feeding, by making them feel full

Henrietta Strickland
February 9, 2019

The researchers conducted their experiments on Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the species responsible for spreading dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever.

Human blood is particularly attractive to mosquitoes because it contains the protein they need to lay their eggs. After feeding, the bloated mosquitoes often do not feed for several days.

"It's like the ultimate Thanskgiving dinner", said Laura Duvall, a study author.

"We were impressed and amazed that drugs created to affect human appetite worked perfectly to suppress mosquito appetite", study author Leslie Vosshall said in a statement.

Fortunately, similar receptors regulate feeding behavior in many species, including our own.

Researcher Ms Duvall, said that this was a great idea to focus on the appetites of the mosquitoes.

Duvall and her colleagues reckoned the same drugs might affect the mosquitoes' NPY-like receptors, as well. On the other hand, the mosquitoes that were fed with the saline solution with the drugs that inhibit NPY receptors behaved as if they hadn't even eaten at all. The effects of a dose wear off after a few days and the compound would need to be administered to millions of mosquitoes to make a dent. Researchers discovered that human appetite suppression drugs had the same effect on mosquitoes.

At that point, the researchers knew that NPYLR7 might be what they have long sought: a means of preventing mosquitoes from biting people. It showed that by manipulating the hormones which make mosquitoes feel full, the insects' desire for blood can be satiated.

Instead, they began searching for molecules that would selectively activate NPYLR7 without triggering human NPY receptors.

Demonstrating that a drug will cause female mosquitoes to turn up their noses at a piece of tasty-smelling nylon is one thing, however. But what if they stopped biting? They also tested the mosquitoes on mice to see whether they would bite a live host, Duvall told CNN. With this knowledge the team could next learn where this neuropeptie reseptors lay and how they could be controlled to get the mosquitoes off human blood. Researchers have nevertheless deciphered a list of nine potential neuropeptides.

Leo Braack, senior vector control specialist from the Malaria Consortium, said that these findings "represent a new direction for intervening in contact between disease-carrying mosquitoes and their human hosts" and "humanity urgently needs new tools to stem the tide of rising mosquito-borne infections". Hopefully, they would soon be able to determine exactly where the insects produce NPYLR7 in their bodies and how compound 18 can be delivered in the wild.

Muzzling Ae. Aegypti would be a boon in and of itself. Still at preliminary stages of their research, the team says that they used Aedes aegypti mosquitoes for their study.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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