Researchers are homing in on the genes that enable some mosquitos to particularly target humans for feasting upon, the Los Angeles Times reports.
It adds that researchers from Florida International University have particularly focused on the Aedes aegytpi mosquito, as it prefers humans and can transmit diseases like Zika, dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya. According to the LA Times, FIU's Matthew DeGennaro and his colleagues previously found that female Ae. aegytpi rely on the Orco gene to help differentiate between body heat and carbon dioxide given off by humans versus other animals, but they could still find humans with the gene knocked out.
In a new study appearing this week in Current Biology, DeGennaro and his colleagues used the CRISPR/Cas9 tool to disrupt the Ir8a gene, which encodes an ionotropic co-receptor. They found that Ir8a mutant mosquitos are neither attracted to lactic acid, a part of human sweat, nor to other acidic components of human odor. In addition, they report that, compared to wild-type mosquitos, the Ir8a mutant mosquitos were less responsive to human odor, but not heat and carbon dioxide.