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Smelly chemicals to be used in mosquito repellents

2nd June 2011

UK experts have said the discovery of chemicals which interfere with a mosquito’s ability to sniff out humans could be a “major step forward.”

Mosquito

Following the discovery by US scientists, which was reported in the journal Nature, there are hopes that it could be used to develop new mosquito repellents.

Mosquitoes use carbon dioxide in exhaled breath to track down humans and can detect minute changes in the concentration of the gas.

Scientists at the University of California have been looking for chemicals which can disrupt or confuse a mosquito's carbon dioxide sense.

Dr James Logan, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, urged caution and said while there is excitement over the study researchers still had to show that the chemicals were capable of protecting humans being from being bitten.

“Although carbon dioxide is an important cue for mosquitoes, we know that mosquitoes respond differently to a trap releasing carbon dioxide than to a real human being, which releases a complex mixture of many attractive chemicals, heat, visual cues and moisture,” he said.

“The key question is - do the ‘response modifying odours’ actually protect a human being?”

Researchers have acknowledged they now need to develop chemicals at levels that are safe for humans.

Dr Nikolai Windbichler from Imperial College London said they also needed to be cost effective.

But he added that the development “could be a major step forward and could protect large groups of people or large areas.”

“That is something that is not currently feasible with existing repellents,” he said.

 

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