Bit By the Bug Blues

DEET trumped by a new insect repellent in the works at Vanderbilt University

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Mosquito season approaches and most of us are annoyed by insects. The most common strategy to avoid insect bites is to use an insect repellent containing DEET, the most common active ingredient found in insect repellents.

Vanderbilt University has created a new class of insect repellent that appears to be many times more effective than DEET and also works on all types of insects. The new repellant is called Vanderbilt University Allosteric Agonist (VUAA1).

"VUAA1 may be the insect repellent of the future."

Vanderbilt Professor of Biological Sciences and Pharmacology Laurence Zwiebel comments that it isn't known if VUAA1 can be used commercially as it is an original, first of type compound. Researchers have begun behavioural studies for VUAA1.

Graduate student David Rinker comments that the lab wasn't setting out to create this new compound. Their missive was part of the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative funded the the National Institute of Health to develop ways to control the spread of malaria.

VUAA1's discovery is due to a greater understanding of an insect's sense of smell. Mosquitos "smell" with their antennae. Scientists are just recognizing that an insect's sense of smell is fundamentally different than people's sense of smell.

Not only do insects have mammal-like odorant receptors (ORs), there is also a coordinating co-receptor, called Orco involved in their olfactory system.

VUAA1's ability to shut down this co-receptor also renders an insect unable to find blood.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2011
Last Updated:
May 29, 2011