mosquito-borne diseases include West Nile Virus, malaria, and several types of encephalitis

Scenting a Breakthrough Mosquito Repellent

A paper published in Nature identifies two promising odor compounds that may be a less expensive way to reduce mosquito-borne diseases -- by turning off the mosquitoes' mechanism for detecting carbon dioxide.

Entomologists from the University of California, Riverside have identified two odorants that may be useful in repelling disease-carrying mosquitoes, publishing their results online Aug. 26 in the journal Nature. Culex mosquitoes transmit West Nile Virus and St. Louis encephalitis; the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Aug. 25 that Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been found in mosquitoes for the first time this season in northeast Massachusetts, in the Essex County town of Merrimac, and an alpaca in southeastern New Hampshire tested positive for the disease a week earlier.

"Southeastern Massachusetts is certainly our historical hotspot for EEE virus," DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Al DeMaria said. "In recent years, however, we have seen increasing activity in Essex County; activity which has been concentrated in the towns along the New Hampshire border. We should be careful not to think of this disease as restricted to only one area." DPH recorded one human case of EEE during 2008 and 13 cases, with six deaths, from 2004 through 2006.

The California, Riverside researchers, Anandasankar Ray and graduate student Stephanie Lynn Turner, found the two odor compounds by examining why fruit flies avoid carbon dioxide emitted by fellow flies as a danger signal but are attracted to fermenting fruit that also emits CO2. They discovered the fruit releases odorants that block flies' CO2 receptors efficiently, according to Scientific American's report on the findings. Ray hopes the discovery leads to useful repellents within five years to reduce malaria in Africa, Lynne Peeples reported.

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