That genetic trait could lead researchers to better insect repellents, they say
MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Certain mosquitoes are not turned off by the widely used insect repellent DEET, and now scientists say they know why.
These "insensitive" mosquitoes have defects in their ability to smell the compound, and this genetically determined trait is easily passed from generation to generation, the researchers reported in the May 3-7 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The findings, from researchers in the United Kingdom and Sweden, could present new molecular targets, paving the way for better, safer repellents to stave off the flying vermin of summer.
"DEET is one of the most effective insect repellents of four that are approved," said Michel Slotman, assistant professor in entomology at Texas A&M University in College Station, who was not involved in the study. "But we haven't understood how it works."
"These [newly discovered] molecular targets will pave the way for the discovery of novel insect repellents if resistance to DEET becomes a problem a few decades down the road," added Walter S. Leal, professor of entomology at the University of California-Davis, and the scientist who discovered that mosquitoes are repelled by the smell of DEET. "Now that it has been corroborated that mosquitoes smell and avoid insect repellents, let the race for identification of DEET-sensitive odorant receptors begin," he said.
Before Leal determined that mosquitoes dislike DEET's smell, researchers had thought the compound interfered with the insects' ability to smell.
N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET -- the most common active ingredient in bug repellents -- is used by about 200 million people worldwide to protect against disease-carrying insects, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mosquitoes can cause malaria, encephalitis, West N
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