Every time we exhale carbon dioxide, we are attracting female mosquitoes. However, there might be a new way to prevent mosquitoes from biting by overloading the nerve cell that detects carbon dioxide. According to Nature (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature10081), Stephanie Lynn and Nan Li from the University of California-Riverside, have found a combination of chemicals (2,3-butanedione or diacetyl) that prevent the female mosquito from finding hosts. Diacetyl smells like butter or cheese and it causes the mosquitoes’ nerve cell to continue to fire so it can not find the source of carbon dioxide. Instead, the female flies in a random pattern.
There are several advantages of using these chemicals, such as they do not have to be applied directly to skin and the chemcials can be blown over a large area to protect many people. In addition, these chemicals do not interfere with DEET, so the two chemicals can be used at the same time. Currently, diacetyl is found in some alcoholic drinks and it is used to give margarine and popcorn a buttery flavor. However, when it is used at high levels, it can be an irritant and has been linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans also known as “Popcorn Worker’s Lung.”
Female mosquito feeding. Photo by Texas A&M University.
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