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Discovery of natural odors could help develop mosquito repellents
Date:8/26/2009

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Entomologists at the University of California, Riverside working on fruit flies in the lab have discovered a novel class of compounds that could pave the way for developing inexpensive and safe mosquito repellents for combating West Nile virus and other deadly tropical diseases.

When fruit flies undergo stress, they emit carbon dioxide (CO2) that serves as a warning to other fruit flies that danger or predators could be nearby. The fruit flies are able to detect the CO2 and escape because their antennae are equipped with specialized neurons that are sensitive to the gas.

But fruits and other important food sources for fruit flies also emit CO2 as a by-product of respiration and ripening. If the innate response of the fruit fly is to avoid CO2, how then does it find its way to these foods?

Anandasankar Ray, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, and Stephanie Turner, his graduate student, now provide an answer to the paradox.

They have identified a new class of odorants chemical compounds with smells present in ripening fruit that prevent the CO2-sensitive neurons in the antennae from functioning. In particular two odors, hexanol and 2,3- butanedione, are strong inhibitors of the CO2-sensitive neurons in the fruit fly.

The research has strong implications for control of deadly diseases transmitted by Culex mosquitoes such as West Nile virus disease and filariasis, an infectious tropical disease affecting the lymphatic system. Since 1999, nearly 29,000 people in the United States have been reported with West Nile virus disease. Lymphatic filariasis has affected more than 120 million people in
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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