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Egg yolk precursor protein regulates mosquitos’ attraction to humans

Feeding mosquitoes sugar makes them less attracted to humans, a response that is regulated by the protein vitellogenin, according to a study published recently in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Jessica Dittmer, Paolo Gabrieli and colleagues at the Università degli Studi di Pavia in Italy.

Female mosquitoes must feed on blood to provide energy and nutrients for their developing eggs, but they can also supplement their diet with sugars by drinking plant nectar or sap. The team fed young female tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) sugar solutions, and found it reduced their attraction to human skin. Female energy levels constantly increase after feeding sugars, and they are not related to the insects’ motivation to find a host.

The findings suggest an interesting avenue for research into disease prevention – by manipulating vitellogenin levels scientists could reduce mosquitos’ tendency to bite humans and transmit infections such as Malaria, Dengue fever and Zika virus, which are collectively responsible for over 700,000 deaths each year.