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Scientists develop human diet drugs to prevent mosquitoes

Staff Writer |
American scientists have identified drugs that can reduce female mosquito's hunger for blood, thus lessening the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

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The study published on Thursday in the journal Cell shows that a kind of compound acts on the hormone pathways, which signal to a female mosquito that she's full.

"This is a completely new way to think about insect control," said the paper's senior author Leslie Vosshall, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Vosshall's lab hypothesized that certain neuropeptide hormones were responsible for a mosquito's attraction to humans and that feeding turned these pathways off.

After having a meal that doubles her body weight, the female mosquito could lose its drive to eat again for at least four days. So they used human diet drugs to see if they would suppress the appetite of the mosquitoes.

Vosshall's team identified a receptor called neuropeptide Y-like receptor 7 as the one that signals to the female mosquito whether or not she's hungry.

They then identified 18 candidates from more than 265,000 compounds that may activate the receptor.

Those compounds are capable of inhibiting biting and feeding behaviors when the mosquitoes are introduced to the scent of a human or a source of warm blood, according to the study.

"The effects of the drug are not permanent," said Vosshall. "It reduces the appetite for a few days, which will also naturally reduce reproduction, but it doesn't attempt to eradicate mosquitoes, an approach that could have many other unintended consequences."

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