DEET, the most widely used commercial insect repellent, offers powerful protection from Vector-borne illnesses such as malaria, lyme disease, and dengue fever. But, it is toxic in high concentrations, expensive and short-lived.
Soon there may be a better option. In May 2011 a Vanderbilt University scientist announced that a compound called VUAA1 is not only 100,000 times as strong as DEET but also potentially cheaper and less harmful to humans.
DEET works by inhibiting cells on an insect;s antennae, dulling its ability to locate prey (i.e. humans). VUAA1, which was found by screening 117,000 chemicals, stimulates a single receptor cell called Orco. When triggered, Orco causes every type of odor cell to fire, overstimulating the bug’s olefaction system and disrupting its ability to sniff out humans – or anything else.
Now, VUAA1 needs a catchier name!
(source: Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Discover Magazine)