Could mosquito bites soon be a thing of the past?

Scientists at the American Chemical Society meeting in Indianapolis have announced that a naturalsubstance found in humans may be able to create an “invisibility cloak” to repel the pesky blood-sucking insects.

Ulrich Bernier, Ph.D., gave a talk on Monday at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society on the findings, which state that certain natural human compounds can block a mosquito’s ability to smell and target victims.

“We are exploring a different approach, with substances that impair the mosquito’s sense of smell. If a mosquito can’t sense that dinner is ready, there will be no buzzing, no landing and no bite,” Bernier said at the conference.

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RELATED: A Force Field Against Mosquitoes?

Researchers at the Mosquito and Fly Unit at the U.S. Department of Agriculture accumulated information in the 1990s on substances secreted through the human skin, or formed by bacteria on the skin that make some people more attractive to mosquitoes than others, according to a statement released by the ACS.

It’s people’s personal scent — which Bernier explained comes from hundreds of skin compounds — that makes them so attractive, or unattractive, to mosquitoes.

Did you know that stinky feet and scented deodorants can attract mosquitoes? Read more here. 

Using a split-screened cage, Bernier and his colleagues sprayed a variety of substances on each side and documented the effects.

“If you put your hand in a cage of mosquitoes where we have released some of these inhibitors, almost all just sit on the back wall and don’t even recognize that the hand is in there. We call that anosmia or hyposmia, the inability to sense smells or a reduced ability to sense smells,” Bernier explained.

So what were the main lures of the blood-suckers? Lactic acid, a component of human sweat, for one. And the repellent? A group of chemical compounds, including 1-methylpiperzine, block a mosquito’s sense of smell, Bernier said.

The molecular architecture is found in many medicines and products, and could be used in cosmetics, lotions, clothing used to repel mosquitoes. And the findings could save lives. The ACS reports that mosquitoes transmit malaria and other diseases that kill an estimated 1 million people each year.

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Genetically modified mosquitoes wipe out malaria?

ImageCurrent prevention methods for malaria do their best but fail miserably. There’s no vaccine. There is pre-exposure prevention treatment and post-exposure medical care, both of which are too expensive for the people most affected by the disease. To date, the prevention method that seems to work best — and is the cheapest to implement on a wide scale — is mosquito netting doused in repellent. And still, in sub-Saharan Africa, a young child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. So the sudden, possible viability of a cheap, gene-based prevention method is big news.

The mosquito-transfer method of spreading malaria is an effective one. It works something like this:

When a female Anopheles mosquito is laying eggs, she needs extra protein, which she gets by sucking blood from vertebrate animals like birds, reptiles or mammals. If the animal she feeds on is carrying a malaria parasite, the mosquito picks it up. The next time she feeds on an animal, she transfers the parasite to that animal’s blood stream. This transfer method infects about 300 million people every year.

The idea of using genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes to help wipe out malaria has been around for a while. Theoretically, if you could create a “better,” stronger mosquito that happens to be unable to spread malaria parasites, and you were to release tens of thousands of those better mosquitoes into the wild, they would eventually win the survival game and replace the mosquitoes that are able to spread malaria. In this theoretical solution, once malaria were eradicated from a particular area, it wouldn’t come back because the mosquitoes couldn’t carry it back. But there has always been a glitch.

It’s not difficult to activate a gene that makes a mosquito immune to any particular malaria parasite (there are a lot of them) and lose the ability to pass it on. It’s a relatively cheap laboratory procedure. In this case, the scientists turned on a gene in the mosquito’s gut that controls SM1 peptide. SM1 peptide, a type of protein, appears to stop the development of the malaria parasite while it’s living in the mosquito, rendering it harmless. So making mosquitoes immune to malaria isn’t the problem. It’s the “better mosquito” qualification that has been eluding science. Genetically modifying a mosquito has always appeared to make it weaker. And a weaker, malaria-resistant mosquito won’t win the survival game, so there’s no point in releasing it into the wild. It’ll just die off. The big deal about the findings published in March 2007 by a group of Johns Hopkins researchers in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is that they seem to disprove previous studies regarding the fitness of GM mosquitoes.

When the scientists put 1,200 GM mosquitoes and 1,200 “wild” mosquitoes in a cage with malaria-infected mice, they began to feed. So at the start of the experiment, the mix of GM and wild was 50/50. (The scientists also triggered a gene to make the eyes of the GM mosquitoes glow in the dark so they could easily identify which was which.) After nine egg-laying cycles, the mix of GM and wild had changed to 70/30. The GM mosquitoes were slowly out-surviving the wild mosquitoes. The researchers believe that the genetic modification probably still weakened the malaria-resistant mosquitoes in general, but that they gained a survival advantage because the parasite couldn’t develop in their gut. This seems to have caused them to live longer, allowing them to lay more eggs than their malaria-infected counterparts.

But it’s not time to release swarms of malaria-resistant mosquitoes into the wild. There are several issues that make the findings, while promising, very preliminary and really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of actually using GM mosquitoes to stem the spread of malaria. First, the Johns Hopkins team found that when the two groups of mosquitoes fed on uninfected mice, they survived equally well. That would seem like good news, but it’s not. The GM mosquitoes only had an advantage when the malaria parasite entered the picture, and they needed to be “better” under non-malaria circumstances, too. Most female Anopheles mosquitoes never pick up the parasite. So in order for the GM mosquitoes to replace current mosquitoes and have any real effect on malaria transmission, they’d have to out survive them even when the parasites weren’t present. Also, the latest research only addressed a type of parasite that infects mice with malaria, and that parasite is different from the parasites that infect humans, so some scientists say that these results really only show that it may be possible to stop the spread of malaria in mice.

Under the best of circumstances — with many more studies showing similar results, with the successful introduction of human-malaria parasites into the equation, and with the discovery of a way to make GM mosquitoes generally more fit than wild mosquitoes — it’ll be at least another 10 years before malaria-resistant mosquitoes would ever be released into the wild. There are significant concerns about releasing tens of thousands of genetically modified animals into a natural setting. Nothing on that scale has ever been done, and there’s no way to know what the long-term, widespread ecological implications might be. Other animals populations might be affected. The mosquito population might grow to unmanageable levels, develop intelligence and take over the world. Or, more likely, the malaria parasites might adapt to the genetic makeup of their new hosts, keeping the disease alive but in a form for which we have no treatment at all.

Still, that mosquitoes modified to be malaria-resistant could out survive normal mosquitoes under any circumstances is a tremendous finding, and it may be the proof-of-concept needed to keep this line of research moving forward. At the very least, it’s a possible step toward a financially manageable, large-scale approach to eradicating malaria.

Labor Day – How To Keep The Mosquitoes Away!

Labor Day and Your Special Day – How To Keep Mosquitoes Away

Dread Skeeter tells those mosquitoes "bite me"

With the Labor day holiday upon us, many households will be hosting backyard celebrations. All the preparations, guest lists and planning you are working on should also include mosquito and tick control and prevention. Special events are an important time to make certain that you and your guests don’t get bitten while outdoors at your home or special event.

Mosquitoes and ticks are vectors for illnesses such as Lyme disease, West Nile Virus and many other dangerous and debilitating diseases. Don’t put you or the health of your guests at risk. Even though autumn is right around the corner, and many feel that summer is coming to an end, we are actually in the height of mosquito and tick season. Now more than ever it is important to stay focused and keep your property protected from mosquitoes.

Mosquito

Mosquito Squad of the West Michigan and Grand Rapids is still receiving requests for mosquito and tick control for other special events such as wedding, graduation and birthday parties as well as other special events. Many of these events are larger in size than your average backyard barbecue and seating accommodations are sometimes placed near taller grasses or back up to the edges of your property or wooded areas.  Cases such as this make it crucial to treat your property to kill ticks as well as mosquitoes, since high grass and bushes are where ticks like to hide.

Mosquito Squad spraying your yard

Aside from any special upcoming event, mosquito and tick control will also ensure you can enjoy the rest of your summer in your yard without the threat of being bitten. Even though the kids are back in school and vacation time has come to an end, there is no reason you can’t enjoy the long afternoons outside with your family and friends. Anytime can be special, even the smallest moments.

Call us now to make sure your Labor day celebration or other special event goes off without a hitch. We are now taking appointments to have you safe and sound for the Labor day weekend. Our safe and effective barrier sprays kill mosquitoes and ticks and prevent mosquitoes from entering the treated area as well. Don’t delay call today. Call us today for a free quote • (616) 994-8220

The Asian Tiger Mosquito

The Asian Tiger Mosquito

Don’t get caught with this little bugger on your arm! There’s a reason it’s called the TIGER mosquito.

This strange looking mosquito has been popular in CBS and NBC news… due to its migration into the US, word is getting out about this aggressive insect.

It’s known for latching onto it’s host and being very stubborn to detaching. It’s capable of transmitting over 20 different disease- some of those which can be fatal.

Be aware for this dangerous insect and stay protected.

Call your nearest Mosquito Squad franchise to protect your home with a barrier spray against mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and more!

Ticks in Michigan

Are you aware of the most commonly found ticks in Michigan? If not, read through this to be noted on what ticks to look for in your area!

The American Dog tick is by far the most common tick found in Michigan. It is active from early May-November. It will readily bite humans and our companion animals. This species is the vector of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, and is easily distinguished by it’s ornate scutum.

Another is the Kennel tick, this species is unique in its ability to survive and breed in indoor environments. It is the vector of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine babesiosis and canine ehrlichiosis. Hygienic practices in shelters/kennels can prevent infestations.

Emerging as a serious public health concern in Michigan, the Black-legged tick is the vector of Lyme disease, granulocytic anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. This tick readily quests for hosts in the low vegetation of forests with abundant small mammals and white- tailed deer; accumulating along human and game trails.

Known by its distinctive “Lone Star” marking, this tick is becoming more prevalent in Michigan. It will readily bite people and our companion animals, and is the vector of monocytic ehrlichiosis and tularemia. This tick is common in wooded areas with populations of white-tailed deer.

Often confused with the Black-legged tick, Ixodes cookei is common in Michigan and will readily bite dogs and humans. People and pets will often come in contact near the dens of animals (skunks, woodchucks) in wooded environments. This species is the vector of Powassan encephalitis.

Go to this website for images of these ticks so you can be familiar if you ever see them.

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/emergingdiseases/5commonticks_282020_7.pdf

 

Lyme Disease in the “Lyme” Light

The number of reported cases of Lyme disease, as well as the number of geographic areas in which it is found, has been increasing. To help prevent this we must become educated.

First, you should know where Lyme disease originates from and thats from ticks. There are all types of ticks but one of the most common are deer ticks. They are most often found in wooded areas and nearby grasslands, and are especially common where the two areas merge, including neighborhood yards where deer occasionally roam. Ticks do not survive long on sunny lawns, they dry out quickly and die.

In the early stages of Lyme disease, you may experience flu-like symptoms that can include a stiff neck, chills,fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and joint. You also may experience a large, expanding skin rash around the area of the tick bite known as a “bulls eye” rash. In more advanced disease, nerve problems and arthritis, especially in the knees, may occur.

Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms mimic those of other disorders. Although a tick bite is an important clue for diagnosis, many patients cannot recall having been bitten by a tick or are in the 1/4 of patients who do not have the visible “bulls eye” rash. For someone not to have known they’ve been bitten isnt unusual; for the tick is very small and the bite is normally harmless.

In general, the sooner such therapy is begun following infection, the quicker and more complete the recovery. Antibiotics are taken orally for two to four weeks and can speed the healing of the rash and can usually prevent subsequent symptoms such as arthritis or neurological problems

To prevent Lyme disease from getting to your family:

Check yourself, your family, and your pets routinely for ticks, especially after a trip outdoors. Shower and shampoo your hair if you think you may have been exposed to ticks. Check your clothes for ticks and wash them immediately in order to remove any ticks. Wear long sleeves and tightly woven clothing that is light in color when walking in wooded areas so the ticks can be seen more easily. Wear your shirt tucked into your pants, and your pants tucked into your socks or boots. Walk in the center of trails through the woods to avoid picking up ticks from overhanging grass and brush. Keep grass trimmed as short as possible.

You can also call Mosquito Squad of Grand Rapids to spray your yard for mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.