Stress Keeps Mosquitoes Away

Scientists near bug spray derived from body chemicals
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2009 8:46 AM CDT
Seen through mosquito netting, mosquitoes feed on Robert Harrell at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute's Insect Transformation Facility in Rockville, Md. on Wednesday, June 3, 2009.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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(Newser) – Mosquito magnets, take note: British scientists have identified which bodily chemical odors make some people less attractive to mosquitoes, and they may be ones related to stress, the Wall Street Journal reports. It’s thought that the insects avoid anxious people in favor of healthier prey, a finding that could pave the way for an effective all-natural bug repellent. "Mosquitoes fly through an aerial soup of chemicals, but can home in on those that draw them to humans," a scientist says.

Two repellent chemicals—6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one and geranylacetone—were deemed particularly powerful after testing, and the researchers hope to have a product ready within two years. "The repellents were what made the difference," not the attractants, the scientist says. A better natural bug spray wouldn’t just make barbecues more pleasant—it could also save millions from deadly diseases like malaria and sidestep safety concerns about DEET.