Diet pills quash mosquito appetites

Colourful medication and pills from above

The BBC has reported that, according to researchers at Rockefeller University in New York City, US, feeding mosquitoes human diet drugs can put them off biting and could be used to prevent diseases such as Zika and malaria.

Experiments were conducted on Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which were given a saline solution containing the diet drugs. The mosquitoes’ appetites were then found to be reduced. The researchers measured this by dangling a bit of nylon stocking full of body odour belonging to study author Laura Duvall, a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University, in front of them.

The team then tested all of the mosquitoes' neuropeptide receptors with the diet drugs to discover which particular one was responsible for controlling and switching off a mosquito's appetite. The researchers plan to use this information to find out where the receptor is produced in the insects’ body and how it is activated to control feeding behaviour.

“We're starting to run out of ideas for ways to deal with insects that spread diseases, and this is a completely new way to think about insect control,” said Senior Author Leslie Vosshall, Head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behaviour at Rockefeller University. “Insecticides are failing because of resistance, we haven't come up with a way to make better repellents, and we don't yet have vaccines that work well enough against most mosquito-borne diseases to be useful.”