While you are likely familiar with the annoying experience of being a mosquito’s ‘meal of the day’, more is going on behind the scenes of that insect bite than meets the eye.  Mosquitoes, which are drawn to human scent and breath, require proteins from the blood of their victims to develop their eggs and reproduce. This sounds harmless enough, but mosquitoes also excel at picking up blood-borne diseases like malaria and passing them on from person to person, leading to over a million deaths per year.  Now, scientists may have found a drug that can reduce this public health burden by making mosquitoes less likely to bite humans.

To tackle this challenge, Leslie Vosshall’s group at The Rockefeller University took advantage of a panel of previously developed drugs that mimic the action of a natural appetite controlling molecule called neuropeptide Y.  Vosshall and colleagues screened through over 250,000 of these drugs, eventually landing on one that had the greatest effect on mosquito biting behavior, referred to as compound 18. When mosquitoes were fed a saline solution supplemented with compound 18, they were significantly less drawn to human body odor than mosquitoes fed normal saline.  Importantly, they were also less likely to bite lab mice with which they were housed, indicating that treatment with compound 18 translates into decreased biting overall by mosquitoes.

To translate this discovery into reduced  human disease transmission, scientists could work with engineers to design mosquito lures that contain saline supplemented with compound 18.  This may be far off, however, as scientists still need to find ways to prolong compound 18’s effect, and produce it at large scales. Other groups have devised alternative methods to reduce disease transmission by using hotly debated gene drives to engineer disease-resistant mosquitoes, or reduce mosquito populations overall.  Potential risks of genetically engineering mosquitoes include the evolution of new disease strains that can overpower the mosquitoes’ newfound resistance, and changes in the overall ecosystem.  Tweaking the behavior of existing mosquitoes through diet may offer a more ecologically responsible solution to our mosquito problems.

For more information:

  • To learn about the use of gene drives to reduce disease transmission by mosquitoes, check out this article, previously published by SITN.
  • A summary of the biological and geopolitical debate around gene drive technology can be found in this article, published by Vox.  

Managing Correspondent: Benjamin Andreone

News Article: A New Way to Keep Mosquitoes From Biting. The Atlantic

Original Article: Small-Molecule Agonists of Ae. aegypti Neuropeptide Y Receptor Block Mosquito Biting. Cell

Image Credit: Pixabay

18 thoughts on “New Drug May Prevent Mosquitoes From Wanting to Bite You

  1. I’m wondering if galabatintin repels mosquitos? I don’t get bitten hardly since taking the med. I’m not being bitten every day numerous times.

    1. Hi.u mentioned to keep misquitoes away.u said galabatintin.but when i look it up for what it does.i cant find it online.whats it for.pls let me know.i get bit alot.im at cuc73@aol.com and 347 737 0042

      1. I think they meant gabapentin, a drug designed for epileptic seizures, but more often written off-script for neuropathy. I also take gabapentin, but obviously the mosquitos don’t know that…?

    2. My husband takes Gabapentin, but the mosquitoes still feast on him daily. Ever since I started taking Xarelto (blood thinner), I never get mosquito bites anymore.

  2. I am a person that mosquitos loved, but since I began taking first Lisinopril and then changed to Losartin, I have not had one mosquito bite.

  3. I used to get bitten by mosquitoes very rarely. But once I started taking Lisinopril I seem to get bitten rather frequently. It could just be a coincidence, but I wonder if there is a connection.

  4. I take numerous meds 4 blood pressure and blood clots. Since I’ve been taking plavix I have not been bitten by a mosquito. My neighbor’s get bites all the time right next to me but I get nothing I’m not complaining but I was just curious if the plavix had something to do with it or was it one of the blood pressure meds.

    1. I take propranolol (a beta blocker and blood pressure medicine) and I work outside all summer long and have been bitten in years. I also haven’t had a tick bite, though I have found them crawling on me.

  5. I use essential oils and it seems like it helps.anyone know if theres a pill or something to take to keep florida mosquitoes away. Im at cuc73@aol.com
    .. Pls help and everyone stay safe with the virus

  6. Remember that you yourself are the best secretary of your task, the most efficient propagandist of your ideals, the clearest demonstration of your principles, the highest standard of higher education that your spirit embraces and the living message of the high notions that you pass it on to others. Do not forget, also, that the greatest enemy of your noblest achievements, the complete or incomplete denial of the sublime idealism that you proclaim, the discordant note of the symphony of good you intend to perform, the architect of your afflictions and the destroyer of your lifting opportunities – it’s you.

  7. My granddaughter has something called Skeeter syndrome. When she gets a mosquito bite just a regular mosquito bite they’re the size of a tennis ball

  8. My husband used to be bitten every day like crazy – it would ruin his summer. He had a heart attack after recovering from covid, and now takes blood pressure meds, cholesterol meds & an anti-platelet. He has not had one mosquito bite this summer. He even watches them fly around his body & leave with even landing on him…

  9. Just wanted to add that my neurologist tried me on Gabapentin one summer for my seizures. I normally get bit a lot by mosquitoes, but that summer I got no bites. I had to go off Gabapentin because it made my seizures occur more often. But I sure missed my mosquito repellent after I stopped taking it.

  10. Here’s a fun anecdote about mosquito bites. For about 4-5 years, I was completely immune to them, despite living in areas where there are a lot of mosquitoes (Australia / Bali) I was never bit. I discovered that I had stage 3 colorectal cancer, I went through heavy chemo / radiotherapy treatment, for about 2 years. Now the cancer is gone, and mosquitoes absolutely love me.

    Speaking with my oncology team, and other patients, they shared similar experiences when asked. I’m really curious as to why there hasn’t been a more comprehensive study on this, because without a doubt there is a correlation there. Mosquitoes could potentially be used for early detection of cancer in the general population, and then we’d actually be able to find a good user for these little buggers, rather than just being satisfied when we kill them.

  11. I’m a seventy year old male , all my childhood and early life I was always highly attractive to mosquitoes. In my 40’s I had a heart transplant, and for the last 30 years I have daily taken a large array of different drugs, including prednisone, toprolol, synthroid, lipitor, cyclosporine, rapamune, cozaar, torsemide, and procrit.
    My life is much improved, but mosquitoes still are more attracted to me than anyone else in the house. None of these drugs have any effect on the mosquitoes. I still find myself cowering in doors during the summers.

  12. All I know is that where I live, I can’t walk outside in the summertime without being eaten alive. I am SO sick of it. I have permanent marks on my legs now from them.
    While I spent several months in Ghana, West Africa, I got ONE single mosquito bite the entire time I was there, while the rest of the people I was there with were eaten alive.
    Maybe it’s the type of mosquito as well as your blood type.
    I live in the Eastern US and am O Positive Blood type. More recently, I take Norvasc/Amlodipine for blood pressure and they tear me up so bad I have to wear long pants, a sweatshirt and whatnot to even begin to sit on my back patio in the summertime and they STILL get me.

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