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Insight into mosquito behaviour in response to CO2 - how they detect their blood food source – using optogenetics

18 August 2022

Persistence Rewarded

Seemingly always able to find us, mosquitoes can detect the CO2 that we breathe out, and odours from our sweat. Later, they sense the warmth of our skin, and this sequence of cues prompts them to feed. CO2 stimulates mosquitoes to fly, expecting a host to be nearby, but recent research suggests it also activates a more long-term hunting mode, keeping them motivated to search. Here are female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, genetically engineered so the sensory neurons that normally respond to CO2 are activated by red light, allowing researchers to precisely manipulate when mosquitoes are stimulated. After a pulse of light, they burst into action, flying or probing the blood meal beneath them, then remain primed to feed for up to 15 minutes. More than mere irritants, mosquitoes are vectors for serious diseases, from malaria to Zika, so understanding how they respond to humans could be useful for reducing transmission.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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