May 27, 2008
A new front in the war on mosquitoes

You hate mosquitoes, right? Of course you do - everybody does. So do I, but like most people I also hate having to apply mosquito repellant. It's unplesant stuff that smells bad, but it's a necessity of life in places like Houston. The good news is that a better way appears to be on the horizon.

When it comes to evading mosquitoes, DEET can't be beat.

That's been the refrain among bug experts for half a century, but it hasn't stopped scientists from looking for something better than the pungent repellent. Now, a research team from Florida, another state thoroughly infested by the biting bugs this time of year, is reporting some success.

After scanning libraries of chemicals, the scientists found seven promising candidates significantly more potent than DEET. In tests, the chemicals, after application to cloth, repelled mosquitoes for up to 10 weeks.

In similar experiments, DEET remained effective for less than three weeks.

"I'm optimistic that we will have something come to the market that's better than DEET," said research chemist Ulrich Bernier of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "These are the best candidates I have seen in the 15 years that I've been testing repellents."

Well, that's the best news I've heard this week; the coda at the end of the piece saying the stuff they're testing has no scent is just icing on the cake. There has to be some bad news, though, right?

The most effective chemicals were found in a group of compounds related to the active ingredient in black pepper. In their lab tests, the chemists tested the compounds against the female Aedes aegypti, or yellow fever mosquito. They now are trying the compounds, known as N-acylpiperidines, against other mosquitoes.

Following these tests, the chemists will have to conduct toxicology tests to determine whether the compounds are safe for human use.

"If the stars are aligned, and everything goes well, we could bring this to market in four or five years," Bernier said.

Hmph. Please don't get my hopes up just to dash them. I hope what this is saying is that the less-sunny, more-realistic scenario is, say, six to eight years to get a product to market, and not that they need everything to go right to get something produced at all. All I can say is that I'll be anxiously awaiting future developments.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 27, 2008 to Technology, science, and math
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)