Bug Off Malaria!
A naturally occurring substance found in human skin could be a viable alternative to mosquito repellent. Scientists have discovered a group of compounds that block mosquitoes from being able to see humans. It would basically create an “invisibility cloak” to guard against deadly mosquito bites. Human tests showed a human hand inserted into a bug-ridden box and being completely ignored by the pests. The chemical blocks the creature’s sense of smell. The insects do not bite a treated human hand.
Far from being just a nuisance, mosquitoes are more deadly to humans than any other animal. Their bites transmit malaria and other diseases that kill an estimated 1 million people around the world each year. In the United States, mosquitoes spread rare types of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. They also transmit heartworms to pet dogs and cats.
“Repellents have been the mainstay for preventing mosquito bites,” said Bernier. “The most widely used repellant, DEET, is quite effective and has been in use for a long time. However, some people don’t like the feel or the smell of DEET. 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.”
“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.”
The compound could be added to ordinary cosmetics so that there would be no need to apply a separate substance. The challenges scientists face at this point is to develop efficient manufacturing. Products are slated to be years away from appearing at the consumer level, unfortunately. However, when they do appear they could save millions in the Third World from the disease and solve many health issues in the United States and developed world as well.
Sorry mosquitoes, you’ll just have to find somewhere else to have dinner.
WATCH: Metamorphosis of the Mosquito