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Flight patterns reveal how mosquitoes find hosts to transmit deadly diseases
Date:9/30/2011

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The carbon dioxide we exhale and the odors our skins emanate serve as crucial cues to female mosquitoes on the hunt for human hosts to bite and spread diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

Two entomologists at the University of California, Riverside have now performed experiments to study how female Aedes aegypti -- mosquitoes that transmit yellow fever and dengue -- respond to plumes of carbon dioxide and human odor.

The researchers report in the October 15 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology that puffs of exhaled carbon dioxide first attract these mosquitoes, which then proceed to follow a broad skin odor plume, eventually landing on a human host.

The results from the study by Ring Card, a distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside, and Teun Dekker, formerly a graduate student in Card's lab and now an assistant professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Research, could clue scientists on how odors can be used in traps for intercepting and capturing host-seeking mosquitoes.

Yellow fever is a viral disease that causes 30,000 deaths worldwide each year. Dengue, another viral disease, infects 50 to 100 million people worldwide a year, leading to half a million hospitalizations, and 12,500,000 deaths.

In the lab, the researchers released female yellow fever mosquitoes into a wind tunnel they built, and filmed their flight paths. They found that:

  • Mosquitoes head upwind only briefly when they encounter just a whiff of carbon dioxide but proceed continuously upwind when the carbon dioxide plume is turbulent, fluctuating in concentration
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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