US (CA): UCR researchers identify new strategies for potential insect control

Researchers at UC Riverside have demonstrated how ammonia and amine odorants could be used to combat insect-driven diseases, such as Malaria and Dengue Virus. New research by scientists at the University of California, Riverside, has potential in insect control through volatile repellents that could be applied on surfaces such as windowsills, eaves of huts, house entryways, backyards, outside produce storage areas, entryways of livestock shelters, and next to crops in a field. The first research paper is titled “Chemosensory detection of aversive concentrations of ammonia and basic volatile amines in insects,” and it appears in the journal iScience. The second research paper is titled “Pentylamine inhibits humidity detection in insect vectors of human and plant borne pathogens.” 

The researchers first focused on ammonia, a basic volatile compound found in insect environments. At low concentrations, such as in human sweat, ammonia is an attractant for mosquitoes and other insects. However, at high concentrations, such as in household cleaners, ammonia is no longer attractive. The researchers inquired into what happens to the olfactory system, smell, gustatory system, or taste of fruit flies and mosquitoes in the presence of ammonia.

Anandasankar Ray, a professor of molecular, cell, and systems biology who led the studies described the science behind this phenomenon, “We found the olfactory neurons seem to have a burst of activity, and then they become silent for a while. During the silent period, the neurons are not able to detect any odorants, which means insects cannot effectively find human skin odor.” 


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