Chemists Announce Natural Mosquito ‘Invisibility Cloak’

Sep 10, 2013 1:37pm
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Could mosquito bites soon be a thing of the past?

Scientists at the American Chemical Society meeting in Indianapolis have announced that a natural substance 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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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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