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Tech & Science PSA: Feeding Mosquitoes Sugar Makes Them Less Likely To Bite

00:50  16 december  2019
00:50  16 december  2019 Source:   lifehacker.com.au

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Mosquitoes love sugar – so much so that can delay their search for our blood. Now, their sweet tooth may have revealed an important genetic weapon against the spread of mosquito -borne disease.

The teasing temptation of a sugary treat can often get the better of us. But don’t worry, we’re not the only ones. The saccharine substance that our sweet tooth finds so hard to resist is also powerfully seductive to mosquitoes .

a insect on the ground: Image: Getty© Getty Image: Getty

Mosquitoes love sugar – so much so that can delay their search for our blood. Now, their sweet tooth may have revealed an important genetic weapon against the spread of mosquito-borne disease.

The teasing temptation of a sugary treat can often get the better of us. But don’t worry, we’re not the only ones. The saccharine substance that our sweet tooth finds so hard to resist is also powerfully seductive to mosquitoes. And according to new research, in helping to keep the pests away from our blood-rich body parts, sugar may for once be good for our health.

But don’t start mixing up any sugar water just yet – or you might end up doing as much harm as good.

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The teasing temptation of a sugary treat can often get the better of us. But don’t worry, we’re not the only ones. The saccharine substance that our sweet tooth finds so hard to resist is also powerfully seductive to mosquitoes .

Only female mosquitoes feed on blood, as it provides essential nutrients needed to make their eggs. Of course, this thirst for blood generates a terrible The research team found that feeding young tiger mosquitoes sugar solutions caused a physiological response similar to that after feeding on blood.

We’ve long understood that sugar is an important energy source for mosquitoes. In fact, it’s actually better than blood in terms of fuelling flight and basic survival processes. Only female mosquitoes feed on blood, as it provides essential nutrients needed to make their eggs.

Of course, this thirst for blood generates a terrible disease burden globally, often in the countries least well equipped to cope. Amid the hundreds of scientists across the world working to reduce the menace of mosquitoes, one promising avenue is investigating how their desires for sugar and blood interact.

The new research, published in Plos Biology, set about investigating exactly this. It focused on the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), an invasive species that has infiltrated every continent, closely associates with humans, and is very difficult to suppress, making it a particularly dangerous transmitter of diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and Zika virus.

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Leaving sugar out for mosquitoes may put off younger mosquitoes from biting you, but it will make older mosquitoes stronger, and could weaken We may, however, be able to genetically modify or treat tiger mosquitoes withhormonesthat raise vitellogenin levels in the absence of sugar , eliminating

Feeding mosquitoes sugar makes them less likely to bite – but don’t go leaving out sugary treats just yet. Strong, rapid wing beats with hardly any push off let mosquitoes make a fast getaway. The technique is in stark contrast to other insects, like flies, that push off first and then start beating their

The research team found that feeding young tiger mosquitoes sugar solutions caused a physiological response similar to that after feeding on blood. Importantly, it then delayed their search for the red velvet blood of a human host.

  PSA: Feeding Mosquitoes Sugar Makes Them Less Likely To Bite © Provided by Lifehacker Australia

Making mosquito eggs is thirsty work.

7th Son Studio/Shutterstock

Interestingly, the researchers found that feeding on sugar caused levels of a protein called vitellogenin to rise in the mosquitoes. Vitellogenin is an important component in the production of the egg yolk that provides nutrients to unborn mosquito offspring. Normally, vitellogenin is produced when receptors detect specific nutrients that mosquitoes gather from blood meals.

Using gene interference experiments, researchers were able to identify a specific gene associated with vitellogenin that when knocked out, restored the mosquitoes’ attraction to humans. This is exciting, as it highlights potential for this gene to be targeted as a way of reducing host seeking behaviour, and in turn, the transmission of deadly diseases that affect millions.

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When mosquitoes bite , they draw out blood while injecting some of their saliva. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant and proteins. Sometimes if a person is bitten for the first time they won’t have a response. This is because their body hasn’t formulated a response to the foreign invader.

Yes, mosquitoes bite animals; although different types of mosquitoes tend to prefer different animals, and these feeding patterns depend on many other factors. This brings up an interesting question… since other animals are probably much less likely to swipe and kill mosquitoes , why does it seem

Work still to do

This research is a significant breakthrough in understanding the physiological mechanisms that influence mosquito feeding behaviour. However, there is still a great deal of work left to do. As the authors themselves are aware of, feeding sugar to mosquitoes cannot alone be used as a control method in the real world.

There are many reasons for this, but the most important is that the effects of sugar on mosquito behaviour can vary significantly, even within just this one species. For example, while the reduction in human attraction held true for young adult mosquitoes, when older females were fed sugar they remained highly attracted to humans, and displayed increased nutrient reserves. This is not a desirable outcome. Physical condition, how well the mosquito fed as larva, whether it has mated, and whether it has previously laid eggs may also influence the effect of sugar on feeding behaviour.

a insect on the ground© Provided by Lifehacker Australia

Feeding the Anopheles mosquito sugar isn’t a good idea.

Everett Historical/Shutterstock

Things get even more complex when other mosquito species are taken into account. For example, high vitellogenin levels weaken the immune system of the African malarial mosquito (Anopheles gambiae), thereby making it more likely to contract and pass on malaria. Raised vitellogenin is therefore clearly not always a good thing.

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With a little bit of planning it won’t take you any more time than opening a can. Dog food labelling makes great play of the ‘recommended daily intake’ figures for individual ingredients. They have almost no basis in fact. In America, for instance, the Association of American Feed Control Officials

Not surprisingly—since, after all, mosquitoes bite us to harvest proteins from our blood—research shows that they may find certain blood types more appetizing than others. One study found that in a controlled setting, mosquitoes landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those

Leaving sugar out for mosquitoes may put off younger mosquitoes from biting you, but it will make older mosquitoes stronger, and could weaken the defences of other mosquito species. We may, however, be able to genetically modify or treat tiger mosquitoes with hormones that raise vitellogenin levels in the absence of sugar, eliminating this trade off. Given that in most cases mosquitoes pick up disease pathogens during their first meal, such control methods could substantially delay the first blood meal of mosquitos, making them infectious for a shorter period of time.

Of course, at this early stage it is difficult to estimate how effective control measures that alter vitellogenin might be. Importantly, there is still a long way to go before any single answer will be created for mosquitoes, so continue to follow the best

Richard HalfpennyStaffordshire University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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