New chemicals could be keys to invisibility cloak against moquitoes

Mosquito proofing: New chemical compounds could block human smells that mosquitoes use to find their prey.
Mosquito proofing: New chemical compounds could block human smells that mosquitoes use to find their prey.Courtesy James Gathany/CDC
Harry Potter has his cloak of invisibility. Chemical researchers think they're on the brink of finding substances to make us humans invisible to mosquitoes.

At the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, information was presented on new compounds that can block human smells, the key that mosquitoes use to find their next meal. Current mosquito repellents are losing their effectiveness and chemical researchers think the newly discovered compounds can be even more effective.

How do they work? The chemicals interfere with the skeeters' ability to smell. Hundreds of chemicals make up the smells that come from human bodies. Mixing in different combinations, they make some people more attractive to mosquitoes than others. What they've found with these new chemicals, including 1-methylpiperzine, was that an arm sprayed with the chemicals and put into a cage full of mosquitoes was completely ignored. Mosquitoes didn't even land on the skin.

It will take a few years of testing to develop products using these new compounds. But if they live up to the hype, they could be a key tool in helping stop the 600,000 annual deaths worldwide caused by malaria spread through mosquito bites.

So don't ditch that can of Off just yet. You'll have at least a couple more summers of slapping and spraying the old-fashioned way.

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