Datum: 12.05.2022

Researchers Discover What Attracts Mosquitoes to Humans

A brain area of Aedes aegypti responds specifically to components of human sebum, a study finds.

Two odorants, called decanal and undecanal, are reminiscent of orange peel and are perhaps best known for their use in Chanel No°5 perfume. They are also the compounds that help mosquitoes home in on humans, a new study finds. 

The research, published on May 4 in Nature, now shows that when female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes smell humans, a unique pathway—the “human glomerulus”—activates in their tiny brains. The glomerulus responds particularly to decanal and undecanal, which are volatile components of human sebum, an oily substance produced in the sebaceous glands dotted throughout our skin. 

Ae. aegypti spread diseases such as dengueZika, and yellow fever. Given the choice, the insects prefer the smell of humans over other animals. “They have some ability to differentiate between a human host and animal hosts, but which odors and neuronal pathways are involved has not been known,” says Marcus Stensmyr, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden who was not involved in the studyThe authors have “managed to pinpoint a specific circuit that is detecting a human volatile, and this circuit is not activated when you present mosquitoes with the odor of animals,” he adds. “The paper is a technical tour-de-force.” 

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