Research Highlights: Mosquitoes are attracted to humans because they see red


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Mosquitoes are attracted to humans because they see red

  • Mosquitoes are infamous in transmitting pathogenic and parasitic diseases.
  • Mosquito-borne diseases include malaria, dengue, Zika virus, and West Nile virus.
  • In 2020, more than 600,000 people died of malaria mostly young children in sub-Saharan Africa.[1]
  • Mosquitoes use their visuals to track odor, seek hosts, and find mates.
  • The food resource color can be dominated by long wavelengths of the visible light spectrum which is necessary for recognizing and localizing objects.
  • In humans, the long wavelengths of the visible light spectrum range from red to green.
  • There is a lack of knowledge regarding the color that attract mosquitoes or how odor influences their visual search behavior.
  • Researchers used real-time 3D tracking system and wind tunnel to control the olfactory and visual environment of the mosquitoes.
  • Researchers quantified and analyzed the behavior of more than 1.3 million mosquito trajectories.
  • They found that carbon dioxide triggers a strong attraction to specific colors including those in humans seen as red, orange, and cyan.
  • Sensitivity to red and orange is associated with mosquitoes’ attraction to the human skin.
  • Human skin is dominated by the wavelengths of red and orange.
  • Additionally, researchers mutated the opsin or carbon dioxide detection in mosquitoes and filtered the red and orange bands from the skin color spectrum and found that the mosquitoes’ attraction was eliminated.
  • Opsin is trans-membrane protein that bind to chemicals that react upon light exposure.[2]
  • Opsin plays a major role in vision, circadian rhythms, phototaxis, and other light-controlled responses of organisms.[2]
  • The results highlight the importance of odor in color preferences of the mosquitoes and that the mosquito visual system may be a target to combat their attraction to humans.

Sources:

Alonso San Alberto, D., Rusch, C., Zhan, Y. et al. The olfactory gating of visual preferences to human skin and visible spectra in mosquitoes. Nat Commun 13, 555 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28195-x

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/malaria_worldwide/impact.html

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/opsin

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