February 7, 2019
Splat! A lucky strike and the telltale red splodge that your nightly tormentor has sucked its last blood vessel.
Staring at the mess on the wall, you might find it hard to believe that so small an insect can carry so much blood. But female mosquitoes have a knack for eating, doubling their body weight with each meal.
“They can barely fly,” laughs Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University, who’s hoping to control mosquitoes, as well as the diseases they carry, by switching off their enormous appetite.
In a paper published Thursday in the journal Cell, Vosshall and her team demonstrate how human diet drugs satiate mosquitoes’ bloodlust for several days — so they are less likely to feed on humans and spread diseases and will also produce fewer offspring.
“When they’re hungry, these mosquitoes are super motivated. They fly toward the scent of a human the same way that we might approach a chocolate cake,” Vosshall says. “But after they were given the drug, they lost interest.”