An interesting new paper released online by Science this week finds that DEET doesn’t actually repel biting insects–it makes you invisible to them. From the Abstract:

“Here we show that DEET blocks electrophysiological responses of olfactory sensory neurons to attractive odors in Anopheles gambiae and Drosophila melanogaster….We conclude that DEET masks host odor by inhibiting subsets of heteromeric insect odorant receptors that require the OR83b co-receptor. The identification of candidate molecular targets for the action of DEET may aid in the design of safer and more effective insect repellents. “

Some very interesting electrophysiology work in that paper!

Basically, DEET prevents sensory receptors from telling the mosquito’s brain that they’ve picked up your scent.  By also identifying the protein receptors that are affected, this paper gives researchers a better target for new compounds. It may represent the first step toward new (and maybe better?) compounds to protect you from mozzies.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!