New substances might help make humans invisible to mosquitoes

A team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service-Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology gave a speech on Monday on how new advances might make it possible to make humans invisible to mosquitoes.

The speech was given by Dr. Ulrich Bernier, the lead scientist from the The Mosquito and Fly Unit. Bernier said there must be better ways to combat mosquitoes, which are far from just a nuisance because of the deadly diseases they pass on to humans and pets. He then reviewed methods used to fight mosquitoes and what the future methods may be.

"Repellents have been the mainstay for preventing mosquito bites," Bernier said. "The most widely used repellant, DEET, is quite effective and has been in use for a long time. However, some people don't like the feel or the smell of DEET. We are exploring a different approach, with substances that impair the mosquito's sense of smell. If a mosquito can't sense that dinner is ready, there will be no buzzing, no landing and no bite."

Bernier explained that some of the research he and his team have worked on involved blocking a person's scent, which contains substances like lactic acid, using various compounds. They also use a group of chemicals able to block a mosquitoes' sense of smell.

"If you put your hand in a cage of mosquitoes where we have released some of these inhibitors, almost all just sit on the back wall and don't even recognize that the hand is in there," Bernier said. "We call that anosmia or hyposmia, the inability to sense smells or a reduced ability to sense smells."