What’s With Your Blood, And Why Mosquitoes Want It

Mosquitoes, at least the wild ones, have an insatiable thirst for blood. Their lab-grown counterparts, however, struggle to rustle up an appetite. It is a chore to keep them physically fit, as Willem Laursen manipulates the conditions inside the lab to replicate what the mosquitoes come across outdoors.

When his mosquitoes refuse to feed, Willem Laursen dons a pair of pantyhose.

… warmth from a heated metal disc; puffs of carbon dioxide from exhaled breath; the alluring funk of human sweat emanating from unwashed nylon stockings.

The lab’s latest crop of mosquito mutants, however, have proved even tougher to coax than usual. Laursen and his colleagues have genetically modified the bloodsuckers to stop expressing a molecular thermostat called IR21a in their antennae, stunting their ability to home in on heat—and leaving them less prone to sup on servings of warm human blood.

Apparently, there are some genes and cells that are responsible for making mosquitoes attracted to heat. And since we have warm blood, our bodies spell “full course meal” for mosquitoes.

Check out Smithsonian Magazine for more details about the study.

(Image Credit: skeeze/ Pixabay)