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Mosquitoes Remember You by Your Smell, How Well You Swat

Mosquitoes Remember You by Your Smell, How Well You Swat
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Wednesday, 20 June 2018 12:00 PM

With the arrival of mosquito season, you might be interested to know that the flying blood suckers have good memories, and they may even get to know your personal smell well enough to remember how you try to swat them.

That’s what a Virginia Tech University study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology in January, said mosquitos quickly remember the smell of their victims and they learn what hosts to avoid based on the intensity of swats and other defensive measures taken.

"Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly what attracts a mosquito to a particular human — individuals are made up of unique molecular cocktails that include combinations of more than 400 chemicals," said Chloé Lahondère, a research assistant professor at Virginia Tech's Department of Biochemistry.

"However, we now know that mosquitoes are able to learn odors emitted by their host and avoid those that were more defensive," she added.

Lahondère and Clément Vinauger, a Virginia Tech assistant professor of biochemistry, found in their research that that mosquitoes exhibited a trait known as aversive learning by training female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to associate odors (including human body odors) with unpleasant shocks and vibrations.

The Virginia Tech statement said by using CRISPR gene editing and RNAi, the scientists were also able to identify that dopamine was a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitos.

"Understanding these mechanisms of mosquito learning and preferences may provide new tools for mosquito control," Vinauger said. "For example, we could target mosquitoes' ability to learn and either impair it or exploit it to our advantage."

The Chicago Tribune noted that some mosquitos can transmit dangerous diseases, like the West Nile virus which first spread in the United States in 1999, mostly from mosquitoes that have bitten infected birds.

Health officials told the Tribune that the West Nile virus usually surfaces from late May and early June in mosquitoes and birds, with reports of the virus affecting humans coming in late July or early August.

The Zika virus, which can be passed on to pregnant women and cause birth defects, is passed along by Aedes species mosquitos, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Virginia Tech noted that mosquitos are also known to carry dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses that can be found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world.

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With the arrival of mosquito season, you might be interested to know that the flying blood suckers have good memories, and they may even get to know your personal smell well enough to remember how you try to swat them.
mosquito, remember, smell, swats
394
2018-00-20
Wednesday, 20 June 2018 12:00 PM
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