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Naturally secreted chemicals could make you invisible to mosquitos

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Mosquito (shutterstock)
Mosquito (shutterstock)

Mosquitos are undoubtably one of nature's most annoying lifeforms — annoying at the best of times, and disease-carriers at the worst. Humanity has made many efforts at repelling the troublesome insects, with the chemical DEET being perhaps the most well known example, but a group of scientists from the US Department of Agriculture has developed a new tactic to make us invisible to the blood-sucking pests. Traditional repellants like DEET make our scent unappealing to mosquitos, but Ulrich Bernier today announced his team has developed an approach that actually disrupts the mosquito's sense of smell entirely — thus making us invisible to the insects. "If a mosquito can't sense that dinner is ready, there will be no buzzing, no landing and no bite," Ulrich says.

Female mosquitos are able to pick up a human's scent from over 100 feet away, so Ulrich and his team went through a painstaking process to break down the hundreds of compounds on a person's skin to isolate exactly what attracts mosquitos the most, and which ones. The researchers sprayed different substances into a specially designed mosquito cage to see what was most attractive — not surprisingly, human sweat was near the top, luring 90 percent of the trapped mosquitos to the screen.

However, they also found a number of naturally excreted chemicals that the mosquitos didn't respond to at all, including one called 1-methylpiperzine. If further testing shows that 1-methylpiperzine and other natural human chemicals can reliably disrupt the mosquito's sense of smell (and can be produced on a larger scale synthetically), it could be a key component in making yourself effectively invisible to these blood-suckers. Here's hoping that comes to pass — mosquitos are becoming more and more resistant to DEET, so we're going to need a new tactic sooner or later.