Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee have developed a mosquito repellent that is 1000 times stronger than DEET, and works on many different types of insects.
The new substance is tentatively called VUAA1, is far more effective than N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), and works on mosquitoes, ants, flies, moths and a slew of other bugs. According to project researcher Laurence Zwiebel, VUAA1 is the product of an initiative to combat malaria.
“It turns out if we found the world’s greatest mosquito repellent, no one would care,” Zwiebel commented, adding, “So we needed to find something that would work against all insects.”
Existing bug sprays attempt to camouflage the user from the offending insect, by masking any odor indicative of a food source. VUAA1 likewise works via scent, but in an opposite way. “We decided to take a more aggressive approach and, rather than turn off the mosquito’s olfactory system, we could look for something that would turn it too far on, to see if we could design a new generation of insect repellents based on overloading their smell system,” Zweibel said, adding, “They hate, just like we hate, overstimulation. They will move away from too much smell.” So far, VUAA1 has worked on every insect it’s been tested on.
Malaria, which will likely be contracted by up to 500 million people this year, killed roughly 660,000 in 2010. “Our hope is that we’re able to help develop a product that can be sold for profit in the developed world, and use that profit to leverage distribution in the developing world,” Zwiebel said. “Our hope is that every time we spray on a mosquito repellent here in America, we’re subsidizing malaria reduction in Africa and Asia.”
Here is an animation describing how malaria enters the bloodstream of a host:
The malaria research project was supported by the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative funded by the Foundation for the NIH through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. No word on when a VUAA1 product will hit stores, as it is still being tested for safety.
Image via Wikimedia Commons