News Stories

New Ways to Fight Off Mosquitoes

In 1998, Whitley Strieber had never heard of climate change, but the Master of the Key burst into his hotel room in Toronto and told him all about it (The new, UNCENSORED edition of The Key, with a foreword that talks about how many of his statements later turned out to be true, is in bookstores NOW). As the weather warms up and becomes more tropical, people in the West are going to experience the constant problem of people in "third world" countries: malaria, which afflicts more than 225 million people worldwide and kills 800,000 of them every year--many of them children living in Africa. 

One way to fend mosquitoes off might be to cause them to be infected with THEIR OWN diseases. But for most of us, the biggest problem with mosquitoes is SWATTING them or finding an effective insect spray. Imagine an insect repellant that not only is thousands of times more effective than DEET--the active ingredient in most commercial mosquito repellants--but also works against all types of insects, including flies, moths and ants. That possibility has been created by the discovery of a new class of insect repellant--that was discovered by ACCIDENT.

Researcher David Rinker says, "It wasn't something we set out to find. It was an anomaly that we noticed in our tests." These tests were conducted as part of a major research project to develop new ways to control the spread of malaria by disrupting a mosquito's sense of smell. The discovery of this new class of repellant is based on insights that scientists have gained about the basic nature of the insect's sense of smell in the last few years. Although the mosquito's olfactory system is housed in its antennae, 10 years ago biologists thought that it worked in the same way at the molecular level as it does in mammals--but it doesn't.

Alas, the new repellant won't be ready in time for this summer. Researcher Laurence Zwiebel says, "It's too soon to determine whether this specific compound can act as the basis of a commercial product, but it is the first of its kind and, as such, can be used to develop other similar compounds that have characteristics appropriate for commercialization."



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