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Fighting malaria by manipulating mosquitoes' sense of smell

ican tsetse fly that has replaced the practice of treating large tracts of land with persistent insecticides with the use of scented baits. It is widely considered to be an environmental and technological success. Unlike insecticides, the chemicals involved in insect olfaction tend to be relatively non-toxic. They also tend to be specific to closely related species, so widespread application is not likely to impact other beneficial insect populations.

The researchers intend to set up a pipeline for identifying and testing non-toxic chemical odorants that attract, repel or simply confuse the mosquito's olfactory system.

The pipeline begins with the high-tech genetic engineering and molecular biology laboratories at Vanderbilt and Yale, which will identify chemical compounds that interact strongly with receptors in the female mosquito's antennae and appear to be related to host selection. The most promising of these mixtures will be shipped to Wageningen University where their effects on the behavior of live mosquitoes will be determined. Compounds that pass the behavioral tests will be forwarded to Tanzania, where they will be evaluated with laboratory-reared mosquitoes in a large biosphere that simulates the natural environment. Finally, odorants that have passed all these tests will be field tested in cooperating villages near Ifakara and in The Gambia under the supervision of IHDRC and MRC Laboratories' researchers.

"By combining laboratory-based and field-based studies, we expect to establish an effective strategy for developing extremely powerful attractants and repellents for malaria mosquitoes and identifying effective methods for using them to reduce the spread of malaria," says Laurence J. Zwiebel, associate professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt, who is the lead investigator on the project.

The mixtures developed in the project could be useful against other disease-carrying mosquitoes, such as those that spread dengue
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Source:Vanderbilt University


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