Monday, December 19, 2011

Good News/Bad News Insect Repellant

Mosquito sucking blood from a human
Researchers at Vanderbilt University are on the trail of a breakthrough in mosquito repellants. Up to 100,000 times as effective as DEET, the new compound -- called VUAA1 -- is much less harmful to humans and, once in production, could be substantially cheaper.

Use of VUAA1 could make a major dent in the malaria problem, even if a vaccine isn't found. The chemical works by overstimulating mosquito smell receptors so they can't find blood (or anything else they locate by smell).

The compound appears to be effective on ants, flies and moths as well, so its discoverers are looking into its application as an agricultural pesticide. That sounds worrisome to me, since moths are pretty similar to butterflies, right? (There was no mention of its effects on bees.) And generally, there have to be unintended consequences if a wide range of insects can't find their food sources.

So it's with a bit of worry as well as hope that I make note of this development. I wonder if it will make it to market, and when.

Via Discover magazine, January 2012.

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