How Human Diet Drugs Could Work on Mosquitoes

How Human Diet Drugs Could Work on Mosquitoes

September 18, 2019

Human beings have been trying to kill or avoid mosquitoes forever.

We slap them with our hand when they're on our arm. We slap them with rolled-up paper when they're on a wall. We spray our skin with repellent before we go outside. We put up nets or screens.

To most of us, mosquitoes are just a nuisance. It stings a little when they bite, and we get red bumps on our skin that won't stop itching. If you scratch too much, it bleeds.

For many people, particularly overseas, it's much more serious. Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals in the world according to the World Health Organization. They transmit diseases such as malaria, Zika, dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus and chikungunya. The World Health Organization reports that these diseases kill more than 1 million people every year.

How do we stop mosquitoes from sucking our blood, and in some cases, killing us?

A recent scientific study has found diet drugs that humans take to lose weight also worked to curb mosquitoes' appetites. The study was led by Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University in New York, and it was published in February 2019 in the journal Cell.

Plenty of tools are available to help prevent mosquito bites. At MosquitoNix®, we use different non-toxic treatments to satisfy our customers' needs. The Rockefeller University study, though, is a rare attempt at trying to control the mosquitoes' behavior rather than just killing them or keeping them out of a particular area.

Female mosquitoes bite humans and animals for blood because the blood contains protein needed for the mosquitoes to develop eggs. Once the female mosquitoes feel they have enough, they stop biting. After the mosquitoes lay their eggs, they repeat the cycle of looking for a mate and then blood. Just as human diet drugs trick our hunger receptors into making us feel full, researchers say the drugs likely work the same way on mosquitoes.

In the study, the mosquitoes were fed by mixing the drugs in powder form into a chemical solution that contained ATP, a molecule that mosquitoes are attracted to. After the mosquitoes took in the solution, the research showed they had little interest when offered the bare skin of human beings.

The research is still in its early stages. The type of mosquitoes tested, Aedes aegypti, is one of the types that transmit deadly diseases to humans. Tests still must be done on other types of mosquitoes and other insects.

If getting people to go on a diet is difficult, getting mosquitoes to do it will be even more difficult. Mosquitoes don't watch TV commercials with before and after photos of people who have lost weight. So, after further tests, researchers will have to develop a way to lure the insects to the diet drugs, and the drugs and delivery system will have to be made cost-effective.

Pharmaceutical companies own human drugs, which creates issues around developing a cheap drug that can easily be deployed in large quantities in developing countries. Meeting that challenge will be even tougher than losing weight.

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