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article imageHow to make people 'invisible' to mosquitoes

By Tim Sandle     Sep 12, 2013 in Health
Scientists think that it is possible to make an "invisibility cloak"’ to protect people against the blood-sucking insects. The basis of the cloak is the drug used in illegal "party pills."
The idea of a barrier that would make mosquitoes ignore people has come about following the discovery of substances that occur naturally on human skin and block mosquitoes' ability to smell and target their victims. It has been estimated that female mosquitoes, which suck blood to obtain a protein needed to produce fertile eggs, can smell people from over 100 feet away. A person's scent comes from hundreds of compounds on the skin, many emitted through sweat and others produced by bacteria.
Malaria is a preventable, life-threatening disease transmitted by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. The disease is caused by a parasite; on being passed into the blood stream the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever and headache, which in severe cases can progress to coma or death.
Repellents are available on the market. The most widely used repellent is DEET. However, some people do not like the feel or the smell of DEET or are not keen to coat themselves with artificial chemicals.
To identify the skin chemicals that attract mosquitoes, scientists used a special mosquito cage divided by a screen. They sprayed various substances into one side of the cage, and documented the effects in attracting mosquitoes. Some compounds, like lactic acid, a common component of human sweat, was shown to be a strong attractor.
From this, the scientists found that a chemical called 1-methylpiperzine (MBZP) can block mosquitoes' sense of smell and stop it from sensing skin excretions like lactic acid. MBZP has been sold as an ingredient in legal recreational drugs known as "Party pills," initially in New Zealand and subsequently in other countries around the world.
The development of any "invisibility cloak" remains at the early stages, but the research carried out so far appears promising. The research has yet to be published.
More about Mosquitoes, repellent, Malaria
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