Summer has arrived in the northern hemisphere.
But along with sunshine, longer evenings and warmer temperatures, the season also brings with it an inevitable wave of mosquitoes and the nuisance of their bites.
Worse still are the malaria-carrying varieties of the insect whose bites cause hundreds of thousands of deaths annually around the world.
To combat them. scientists at the Hebrew University in Israel have developed a new kind of insect repellent – a “chemical camouflage” – that they say will deter 99 per cent mosquitoes from landing on skin where it is applied.
“First, it’s a mechanical protection against mosquitoes biting through your skin. Second, this cellulose polymer acts as a chemical camouflage,” Dr. Jonathan Bohbot, the lead researcher from Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, explained.
“It prevents your smell that attracts mosquitoes and brings more mosquitoes in, and then, it also releases our repellent very slowly. So, it extends its duration of protection,” he added.
According to Bohbot, typical topical repellents – meaning ones that are applied to the skin – work by preventing mosquitoes from biting the individual.
The team’s repellent acts by preventing the mosquito from approaching an individual in the first place.
The formula is a combination of two natural components: indole, a fragrant substance found in flowers, and a polymer called cellulose.
The team’s findings, published in a study in the journal PNAS Nexus in April, reported an 80 per cent decrease in feeding on human skin when a thin coat of cellulose nanocrystals were applied.
The combined effect of cellulose nanocrystals with indole was found to reduce egg-laying post exposure by 99.4 per cent.
“The combination of this polymer and our repellent is the perfect personal protection system you could imagine, long range effect and long duration,” said Bohbot.
His team says it hopes to bring the new repellent to the market next year.
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