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Mosquitoes send researchers to the lab for relief

Mosquitoes send researchers to the lab for relief

When mosquitoes start biting, everyone reaches for the old standbys: insect repellent and citronella candles. And while researchers at Johns Hopkins say they work okay, they don't work on all mosquitoes, and they either need high concentrations or can cause skin rashes.

They want to make better products -- mosquito bites don't just cause itching and irritation, they also transmit diseases.

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They looked into what's in the insects' molecular makeup that responds to the man-made compound DEET in repellent and the aromatic botanical liquid citronellal in candles and sprays.

In two studies, published in Neuron and Current Biology, the researchers found three taste receptors on insect tongues, legs and wings were needed to detect DEET. Pore-like proteins called TRP channels were needed to detect citronellal. In both cases, they sent chemical messages to the insects' brains causing an "aversion response."

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Finding these molecules and channels that detect the repellents "opens the door to identifying more effective repellents for combating insect-borne disease," said Craig Montell, a professor of biological chemistry and member of Johns Hopkins' Center for Sensory Biology.

And who wouldn't want a better repellent?

Associated Press photo

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