FIU scientist engaged on a biotherapeutic repellent to repel blood-sucking mosquitoes


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MIAMI, FL (WFOR) – Spray ’em, swat’ em – these are just two of the most basic methods people have used to fight mosquitoes over the years. Now a researcher at Florida International University is looking for an advanced way to repel the insects.

“If we change the way we smell, we can prevent them from finding us. We can fend them off, ”said Dr. Matthew DeGennaro, the director of the FIU Tropical Genetics Laboratory.

Using genetics, he found out how a mosquito’s unique gene is responsible for the keen sense of smell that leads them directly to human hosts.

“Some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others, and we’re trying to find out why,” he said. “We believe the difference lies in their skin microbes and the smells they produce.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded scientists and researchers at Florida International University and three biotech, pharmaceutical, and dermatology companies up to $ 15 million to develop a product to protect the U.S. military against mosquito-borne diseases. The research will ultimately benefit the civil sector.

“We want it to last two weeks, reduce odors, smells that attract mosquitoes and create offensive smells that keep mosquitos away,” DeGennaro said.
The four-year project aims to harness the microbes found on human skin to create a living, easy-to-use biotherapeutic product that can block human chemical signals that attract mosquitoes while repelling insects.

“We will start our human study in the spring. We develop the microbe and drive development, ”said DeGennaro.

The FIU doctor should continue to use DEET-based repellants until the new product hits the market.

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