Mosquitoes can sense CO2 or sweat wafting off humans using unique chemoreceptors in their antennae and the maxillary palp, a jointed sensory appendage of insects.

A new study led by researchers at Boston University and Rockefeller University explains why mosquitoes are so good at sensing us, which actually challenges our commonly held belief on how our sense of smell actually work.

It turns out that A. aegypti (type of mosquito studied here) connects several olfactory sensory receptors to the one neuron, a process called coexpression.

According to this team, this overturns a core principle of olfactory science, which states that each neuron only has one chemoreceptor associated with it.

The lure of a blood meal is strong, as female mosquitos must feed on human or animal blood to reproduce.

A long-term goal of the research is to create improved mosquito repellents that effectively hide human scent or develop attractants that distract mosquitoes from their meal.

Mosquitoes’ talent for locating humans makes mosquitoes prolific vectors for viral diseases like dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and chikungunya. Collectively, these viruses kill around 700,000 people every year.