Scientists trick malaria-carrying mosquitoes into drinking poisonous beetroot juice they think is blood


A Swedish company says it has perfected a new way to get rid of disease-causing mosquitoes by tricking them into drinking poisoned juice.

Researchers from the Molecular Attraction start-up isolated a molecule called HMBPP, which is present in blood infected with the malaria parasite.

HMBPP gives off a scent that attracts mosquitoes and encourages them to drink more blood.

“It turns out that HMBPP can force mosquitoes to drink almost anything, as long as the pH is right,” said Lech Ignatowicz, CEO of Molecular Attraction. Fast company.

The researchers tempted mosquitoes with a potent combination of beet juice mixed with HMBPP and plant toxins.

The mosquitoes happily fed on the fake blood and all died shortly after.

“The big advantage is that HMBPP does not attract other insects or other species,” Ignatowicz told the outlet. “So you can use it as a passive way to convince mosquitoes to eat toxins.”

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HMBPP, a molecule present in blood infected with the malaria parasite, gives off an odor that makes it more attractive to mosquitoes. Scientists in Sweden managed to add HMBPP to a deadly mixture of beetroot juice and plant poison, killing all the mosquitoes that drank it

Because HMBPP attracts mosquitoes, much less is needed than the more harmful pesticides sprayed over entire neighborhoods.

“Today, the biggest problem with mosquito control lies in the task of luring them to the traps,” the company said. in a statement on its website.

‘This unique composition is exclusively attractive to the 5 Anopheles mosquito species, the exclusive vectors of the malaria parasite.’

Other attractants either require an electrical source or give off carbon dioxide, the company said, “which disrupts the surrounding biosphere.”

While Molecular Attraction is eager to bring the bug-killer to market, it’s committed to making it “accessible and affordable,” Ignatowicz said, so it can help vulnerable countries.

The HMBPP molecule was added to contaminated beets (pictured), but Molecular Attraction CEO Lech Ignatowicz said HMBPP 'can force mosquitoes to drink almost anything, as long as the pH is right'

The HMBPP molecule was added to contaminated beets (pictured), but Molecular Attraction CEO Lech Ignatowicz said HMBPP ‘can force mosquitoes to drink almost anything, as long as the pH is right’

Ignatowicz told Fast Company that the concoction is not intended to completely eradicate mosquitoes.

“We want to eradicate diseases they carry… and limit the amount of mosquitoes around people,” he said. ‘For example, we can create a mosquito-free zone around your house.

“But we shouldn’t completely remove them from your state,” he added.

The study was published in the journal Communication biology on October 7, just one day after the World Health Organization (WHO) de the world’s first malaria vaccine.

The agency recommended widespread use of the RTS,S malaria vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline for use in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high levels of malaria transmission, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

Millions of people are infected with malaria every year and about 400,000 die, many of them children under the age of five

Millions of people are infected with malaria every year and about 400,000 die, many of them children under the age of five

Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite that often infects Anopheles mosquitoes, which in turn transmit the disease to humans when they bite them.

Victims often develop flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting.

Millions of people are infected each year and about 400,000 die, many of them children under the age of five.

Plasmodium falciparum, the deadly parasite that causes malaria in humans, is believed to have been around for more than 50,000 years.

Because Molecular Attraction’s blend specifically targets the Anopheles mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite, it is not helpful in fighting other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, yellow fever, and Chagas.

But epidemiologists have had success with other strategies: Between 2017 and 2020, scientists in Java released millions of mosquitoes injected with Wolbachia, a bacterium that prevents them from transmitting the virus that causes dengue fever.

Scientists in Java injected millions of mosquitoes with Wolbachia, a bacterium that prevents them from transmitting the virus that causes dengue fever.  The number of infections fell by three quarters in neighborhoods where the insects were released

Scientists in Java injected millions of mosquitoes with Wolbachia, a bacterium that prevents them from transmitting the virus that causes dengue fever. The number of infections fell by three quarters in neighborhoods where the insects were released

The team found that infections were 77 percent lower in treated neighborhoods, compared with areas not exposed to the infected insects.

In the Florida Keys, a partnership between the local government and British biotech company Oxitec aims to reduce the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by altering their DNA.

The modified insects would carry a protein that, when they mate, prevents female offspring from surviving.

With fewer females in each generation, the hope is that the overall Aedes aegypti population would decline, along with the rate of transmission of diseases they carry, such as Zika and yellow fever.

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