(Inside Science) – A spoonful of sugar may help keep the fever medicine away, according to new research that has pinpointed a protein in disease-carrying mosquitoes that can curb their attraction to human blood.
According to new research, feeding sugar to mosquitoes affects this protein enough that the bloodsuckers temporarily keep from biting humans.
“If you can avoid mosquitoes being attracted to human hosts, you can reduce the chance humans have to be infected by viruses,” said Paolo Gabrieli, a zoologist at the University of Milan in Italy and one of the co-authors of the new study, published today in the journal PLOS Biology.
The researchers looked at the behavior of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which is originally native to parts of Southeast Asia, but has spread as an invasive species to many other tropical countries around the world. The mosquito is particularly attracted to humans, often living in urban areas, and can transmit a number of nasty diseases like dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fevers, and possibly the Zika virus.
While female tiger mosquitoes must suck blood to gain the energy necessary to develop their eggs, they also feed on sugar from plant nectars or sap.Researchers wanted to see whether a bellyful of sugar might reduce their vampiric urges. They fed a solution of sugar to young female mosquitoes. They then put 10 to 12 of the insects in clear plastic cups and put the open side of these on their hands to see how interested mosquitoes would be in taking the bait.