Chinese researchers have discovered “the vampire gene”, which gives mosquitoes their thirst for blood.

The vampire gene is technically known as trypsin-like serine protease, or Tryp-SPc, said Wu Dongdong, a PhD candidate and lead author of a paper on the subject published in Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Tryp-SPc “makes mosquitoes capable of digesting blood faster and more efficiently than other non-blood-feeding species,” Wu said.

During research scientists fed blood to some mosquitoes and orange juice to others. Genetic analysis found the presence of Tryp-SPc was far higher in the group that fed on blood.

Positive Darwinian selection is considered to drive the evolution and diversification of trypsin-like serine protease family, which probably contributes profoundly to the hematophagous trait in mosquitoes.

Vampire genes are not limited to mosquitoes, bedbugs and other blood-sucking creatures but are found in far smaller doses in almost all animals, including humans.

“I don’t know if the discovery can lead us to eventually create a human vampire in our lab,” Mr Wu said. “But the technology is already available.”