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A recent scientific study revealed the mechanism by which mosquitoes are attracted to humans.
The study, the details of which were published on the “Middle East” website, quoting the newspaper “The Independent”, indicated that mosquitoes have developed the process of biting humans by relying exclusively on smell molecules that distinguish us from those exuded by other organisms in the surrounding environment.
She noted that mosquitoes, which act as carriers of diseases such as Zika, dengue and yellow fever, strongly prefer human odor over animal odor..
The new study, which involved scientists including researchers from Princeton University in the US, applied a new approach by imaging the brains of mosquitoes with very high resolution to observe how annoying insects identify their next victims..
Scientists have genetically engineered mosquitoes to make their brains light up when they are active, releasing human and animal flavored air in ways that mosquitoes can detect while inside special imaging equipment..
The researchers sought to understand the exact mixture of air components that these insects use to recognize human smell.
“We set out to try to understand how these mosquitoes distinguish human and animal scents, both in terms of what human scent they’re referring to and what part of the brain allows them to signal that scent,” Carolyn Lindy McBride, associate professor of ecology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience, said in a statement. Properties”.
“We got a little bit deeper into the mosquito’s brain, and we asked, ‘What can you smell?'” What lights up your mind? What activates your nerve cells? And how is your brain activated differently when you smell a human versus an animal smell?”
While human odor is made up of dozens of different compounds, it is also found in most mammals in slightly different proportions.
The scientists collected samples of hair, fur and wool, and used the scent from 16 people, two mice, two pigs, two quails, one sheep and four dogs..
“For the human samples, we had a bunch of great volunteers, we didn’t let them shower a few days and then we collected their odors,” said graduate student Jessica Zung.
The researchers later collected human and animal odors in a non-destructive manner, and designed a system that would allow them to pass the human odor to mosquitoes..
At first, researchers suspected that mosquito brains likely had a sophisticated technique for distinguishing humans from other animals, but the study found that the process was much simpler than thought..
“The simplicity surprised us,” Melbride said. Despite the complexity of human scent, and the fact that it doesn’t really contain any of the compounds specific to humans, mosquitoes have evolved a surprisingly simple mechanism to recognize us.”
The study concluded that mosquito brains contain 60 neurons, many of which help the insects find their favorite food..
“When I first saw brain activity, I couldn’t believe it, only two (glomeruli) were involved in the process,” said Zile Zahua, a graduate student at Princeton University, one of the study’s authors. “This contradicted everything we expected, so I repeated the experiment several times. With more people, more animals. I just didn’t believe it. It is very simple.”
The scientists then revealed the characteristics that these nerve centers were determining, and they found that mosquitoes use these centers to detect two chemicals that have an orange and slightly acidic smell rich in human smell..
“For me, it’s an evolutionary story,” McBride explained. “If we created a statistical test to distinguish human odor, it would be very complicated, but the mosquito does something remarkably simple, and simplicity usually works well when it comes to evolution.”
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