Probing Mystery of How Mosquitoes Smell Humans; New Study Upsets Dogma to Show Mosquito Olfactory Sensory Neurons Co-Express Multiple Chemosensory Receptors; May Increase Robustness of Mosquito Olfactory System and Explain Our Long-Standing Inability to Disrupt Detection of Humans by Mosquitoes

A female mosquito antenna with olfactory neurons, labeled red and green. Olfactory neurons that express multiple types of smell receptors are in yellow. (Credit: Margaret Herre). 

Between malaria and a host of other mosquito-borne diseases, nearly one million deaths each year can be traced back to simple mosquito bites. Curbing the deadly attraction between mosquitoes and humans is therefore a significant public health priority, but attempts to do so by interfering with how mosquitoes pick up human scent have proven fruitless.  Now, a new study explains why the mosquito’s sense of smell is so difficult to disrupt. The research, published on August 18, 2022 in Cell, reveals an exquisitely complex olfactory system that empowers Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to specialize in hunting humans and spread viruses such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever. The open-access paper presents data that upends longstanding assumptions about how mosquitoes sense and interpret odors. 

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