Psych! Beet juice concoction tricks mosquitos into drinking poison

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In Sweden, startup Molecular Attraction has developed a plant-based poison concoction that tricks mosquitos into thinking they’re drink blood. 

Made from beet juice, the idea was born when Molecular Attraction cofounder and Stockholm University molecular biosciences professor Noushin Emami noticed mosquitos are more attracted to blood containing malaria parasite than uninfected blood. She soon realized a molecule in malaria—HMBPP—was the cause. Together with Lech Ignatowicz, she founded Molecular attraction to commercialize a beet juice mixture containing HMBPP and a natural toxin to attract—and then kill—the deadly pests. 

“It turns out that HMBPP can force mosquitoes to drink almost anything, as long as the pH is right,” says Ignatowicz, also CEO of the company.  “The big advantage is that HMBPP doesn’t attract other insects or other species. So you can use it as a passive way of convincing mosquitoes to eat toxins.”

According to the World Health Organization, mosquitos kill approximately a million humans annually through diseases such as malaria, West Nile, and dengue.