Imagine an insect repellant that not only is thousands of times more effective than DEET – the active ingredient in most commercial mosquito repellants – but also works against all types of insects, including flies, moths and ants. That possibility has been created by the discovery of a new class of insect repellant made in the laboratory of Vanderbilt Professor of Biological Sciences and Pharmacology Laurence Zwiebel and published iit in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In preliminary tests with mosquitoes, the researchers found the new class of repellant, called Vanderbilt University Allosteric Agonist or VUAA1, to be thousands of times more effective than DEET. The compound works by affecting insects’ sense of smell through a newly discovered molecular channel.
“If a compound like VUAA1 can activate every mosquito odorant receptor at once, then it could overwhelm the insect’s sense of smell, creating a repellant effect akin to stepping onto an elevator with someone wearing too much perfume, except this would be far worse for the mosquito,” said Patrick Jones, a post-doctoral fellow who conducted the study with graduate students David Rinker and Gregory Pask.