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Sleep over Bites for Exhausted Mosquitoes, New Study Finds

Sleep over Bites for Exhausted Mosquitoes, New Study Finds

Saturday, 4 June, 2022 - 06:30
Anopheles mosquitoes are seen in a net placed in a rice field during a test in the use of drone technology in the fight against malaria near Zanzibar City, on the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania, October 30, 2019. (Reuters)

Turns out you're not the only one who needs a good night's rest to function well the next day, as researchers at the University of Cincinnati discovered that mosquitoes have the same behavior.

Researchers found that mosquitoes whose slumber is disrupted are more interested in catching up on their sleep than looking for food the next day, according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The phenomenon of catching up on missed sleep, called sleep rebound, has been observed in other animals such as honeybees, fruit flies and people. But it was detected for the first time in mosquitoes after researchers spent more than a year developing protocols to study mosquito sleep.

It was really hard to quantify sleep in mosquitoes when, as soon as you walk in the room, you're considered their dinner. Mosquitoes are able to sense people through their body heat, odors, movement, vibrations and the carbon dioxide they exhale from their lungs and emit from their skin. So, researchers set up the experiment in which the mosquitoes were separated from passersby by multiple rooms. They set up cameras and infrared sensors that could record when the mosquitoes were moving without disturbing them.

Researchers studied the mosquitoes' sleep and feeding behavior for about a week after they were acclimatized to their new experimental habitat. In a second experiment, researchers subjected them to sleep deprivation during their normal bedtime by vibrating their enclosures at regular intervals during the day or night.

While more than 75% of mosquitoes that were not subjected to sleep deprivation sought a blood meal, less than one-quarter of them had any interest in food after a sleepless night. That was surprising for the researchers because as much as mosquitoes need blood to produce eggs, they will give it up to recover the sleep they lost.

“The next step is to determine the genes responsible for sleep in mosquitoes. This could help us develop chemicals and products to control this disturbing problem,” researcher Oluwaseun Ajayi, from UC's Tech's Department of Biochemistry, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“While human and mosquitoes are different when it comes to organ functions, they both need sleep for metabolism and activity,” he added.

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