Follow the Odor and CO2

Flight Patterns Reveal How Mosquitoes Find Hosts to Transmit Deadly Diseases

The carbon dioxide we exhale and the odors our skins emanate serve as crucial cues to female mosquitoes on the hunt for human hosts to bite and spread diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

Two entomologists at the University of California, Riverside have now performed experiments to study how female Aedes aegypti — mosquitoes that transmit yellow fever and dengue — respond to plumes of carbon dioxide and human odor.

The researchers report in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology that puffs of exhaled carbon dioxide first attract these mosquitoes, which then proceed to follow a broad skin odor plume, eventually landing on a human host.

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An Aedes aegypti mosquito prepares to bite a human. (Credit: Image courtesy of USDA.)

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