Darn mosquitoes…they completely spoil our lovely summer evenings and serene strolls through the woods… But why are they so attracted to us? Is it our scent or the smell of our fresh blood perhaps? Nope! As it turns out, insects are actually sensitive to the carbon dioxide we exhale!
We already know insects use carbon dioxide, and other proteins, to locate food sources and assess their surroundings. As of now however, we also know the “organ” that enables mosquitoes to detect this gas: they are protein receptors located in a miniscule finger-like structure extending from their jaws.
When these receptors are activated, the cells become excited by carbon dioxide. On the other hand, if these receptors were mutated, the mosquitoes would no longer react to the gas. These receptors could be the target of new insecticides, products that could be of great use in the fight against insect-borne infectious diseases.
The mosquitoes in Quebec and North America are quite bothersome and cause irritating little bites. But on other continents, people are not so lucky. In Africa for example, mosquitoes are carriers of deadly diseases like malaria, which kills 1 million people around the world every year.
Curiously, this discovery could contribute in the development of products to attract mosquitoes, diverting their seemingly insatiable craving for human skin! Dare to dream of long mosquito-free summer evenings, it may be closer than you ever imagined!