They sniff out human prey. Scientists have spent many years trying to figure out the insect's powerful sense of smell.
Well, this research could pay off soon. Scientists are developing a mosquito 'invisibility cloak' that could replace traditional repellents.
Through the research, they have found substances that occur naturally on human skin and block mosquitoes' ability to smell and target their victims.
Not only would this research protect us from the occasional bite, it could help stamp out deadly diseases such as malaria.
Right now, the most widely used repellent is DEET. It is quite effective and has been in use for a long time. Problem is, some people don't like the feel or the smell of it.
So instead of a spray, the scientists are exploring a different approach. They are looking into substances that would impair the mosquito's sense of smell.
Basically, if the mosquito can't sense that dinner is ready, there will be no buzzing, no landing and no bite!
Female mosquitoes can smell people from more than 100 feet away. A person's scent comes from hundreds of compounds on the skin. Much of the scent is through sweat and bacteria.
For example, the researchers found that lactic acid - a common component of human sweat - definitely lures mosquitoes.
But when the scientists used a group of compounds, including 1-methylpiperzine, the mosquitoes' sense of smell was blocked. The mosquitoes simply stayed away.
They say this may help explain why mosquitoes fly toward some people but not others.
Sound familiar? I swear that me and my daughter are mosquito magnets. Meanwhile, my son barely gets a bite in the same environment.
This group of compounds is often found in dozens of medicines and other products, such as cosmetics, lotions and clothing.
One product is called the Kite Patch. It's a cloth square that allows humans to go virtually undetected by mosquitoes for up to 48 hours. The patch isn't on the market yet. It still has to undergo more safety tests.
Another idea is to use a compound called VUAA1, which may be 100,000 times more effective than DEET. VUAA1 turns on ALL the mosquito's smell receptors at once, and this causes a sensory overload. Problem is, it could be some time before this hits the market too. It could cost as much as $200 million just to enter the bug spray market.
So when will all of this become available? Maybe not as soon as you or I would like. But something safer and better could someday hit the market.
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