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BEYOND CROP BIOTECH: GENETIC ENGINEERING ALTERS MOSQUITOES' SENSE OF SMELL

Date : 5 June 2013

Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have successfully altered the way mosquitoes respond to scents, including that of humans and the insect repellant DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide). Led by Leslie Vosshall at The Rockefeller University, the research team used a genetic engineering tool called zinc-finger nucleases to mutate the orco gene in Aedes aegypti. The engineered mosquitoes showed diminished odor-sensing and researchers observed the insects have less preference for the smell of humans.

The researchers also tested the mutated mosquitoes' response to DEET. When exposed to two human arms, one untreated and the other slathered with a solution containing DEET, the mosquitoes flew towards both arms, but quickly flew away from the DEET-covered one. Vosshall said that this reveals two different mechanisms that mosquitoes use to sense DEET.