The Loh Down On Science

A new mosquito repellant comes from an unexpected source

Greg Allen / www.rsc.org

A fearless volunteer demonstrates the effectiveness of DEET as a mosquito repellent. New compounds, such as 1-methylpiperazine, have been found to keep mosquitos at bay longer than DEET.

Did you know—DEET insect repellant is losing its effectiveness?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Saying it’s sad but true.  Mosquitos are evolving a genetic insensitivity to DEET.  So instead of being repulsed by it, 'skeeters are oblivious to it.

But don't give up hope.

Meet Ulrich Bernier from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  At a recent American Chemical Society meeting, he showed that some human skin contains a natural mosquito repellant!

In general, human skin contains hundreds of different compounds that make up a person’s smell.  Some people smell more attractive to mosquitoes than others.  The scientists specifically looked for skin compounds that didn’t attract 'skeeters.  They isolated those compounds and put them to the test!

When a human hand was immersed in a solution containing a chemical called 1-methylpiperazine, mosquitoes avoided it.  Why?  Turns out the chemical impairs mosquitos' sense of smell.

Scientists hope this compound will lead to the development of new, more effective insect repellants.

Or some wonderful new colognes . . . just for camping.  Like Canoe?  From the ‘70s?  Time to bring it back.


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