It is the nightmare of our nights. From buzzing sounds that keep you from sleeping to itchy bites, mosquitoes can be real nuisances. And it’s not the rainy summer this year that should help matters, these insects laying eggs directly in water or on wet substrates.
But there is a glimmer of hope: researchers have succeeded in reducing the ability of mosquitoes to locate their targets.
In a study conducted at the University of California and published by Current Biology, and relayed by Geo, neurobiologists managed to make mosquitoes insensitive to contrasts. To do this, they cut specific DNA sequences, resulting in the deactivation of rhodopsin, a photoreceptor cell in the retina, in the eggs of these insects. The researchers also noted that mosquitoes deprived of their two rhodopsin proteins appeared unable to find prey. “Mosquitoes circled around aimlessly, showing no preference between the white circle and the black circles. They had lost their ability to seek out dark-colored hosts,” the study describes, “it is likely that elimination of Op1 and Op2 decreases light sensitivity below a certain threshold required for guiding mosquitoes to their target”.
Mosquitoes are vectors of dengue fever and the Zika virus. This breakthrough opens up a new line of research to fight the spread of these diseases. “If female mosquitoes are unable to see their hosts, they will have a harder time finding the blood they need to develop their eggs, and the population will crash,” says Craig Montell, a neurobiologist at the University of California, New York Times.