Engineering how mosquitos smell
Athens – A EUR2.5m EU research project targeting olfaction in the malaria carrier Anopheles gambiae is to be coordinated by Greek researchers from the Institute of Biology at the Demokritos National Centre of Scientific Research in Athens. The ENAROMaTIC network of 10 research groups and the firms Inscent, Inc. and Neuroproof GmbH, along with pharmaceutical chemists from the National Hellenic Research Foundation, aims to limit the spread of malaria by lowering the insect’s capability to detect humans by smell. Female mosquitoes hone in on humans in the environment with the help of an odorant receptor (AgOr) repertoire in their antennae. The mechanisms used by Anopheles to detect smells will be studied within the ENAROMaTIC project, and new natural and synthetic inhibitors of the insect’s olfaction will be tested in Africa. The overall aim of the project is to reduce the frequency of bites, and thus transmission of the malaria agent from the mosquitoes. In February, the concept received strong support from the results of a US study when researchers from Yale University identified a dozen Anopheles odorant receptors that appear to be useful targets for controlling the transmission of malaria (Nature, doi:10.1038/nature08834).