Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Blocking the mosquito scent trail

Shares

Insects need their sense of smell to 'see' where they are going. Repellents that interfere with this ability could, therefore, become new weapons against disease-carrying insects, such as malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, which use smell to locate humans.

This Science in Africa article describes how researchers at Rockefeller University have found that a single gene — called Or83b — lies at the core of many insects' sense of smell. To test the gene's importance, the scientists bred a strain of fruit fly with the gene 'knocked out' and found that the flies were unable to detect scents. The researchers published their findings in the journal Neuron.

Insect repellents in use today need to be applied frequently and in large amounts, and some are too toxic to use on young children. Leslie Vosshall, who led the team, believes that a repellent that blocks insects' ability to smell by targeting the Or83b gene could be used in impregnated bed nets or candles as an effective tool in the fight against diseases such as malaria.

Link to full Science in Africa article

Link to abstract of full research paper in Neuron

Reference: Neuron 43, 703 (2004)

Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.