By: Susan Harris - Staff Writer
Published: May 11, 2021

VUAA1 Insect Repellent

VUAA1 - Researchers at Vanderbilt looking for better ways to control the spread of malaria have stumbled across VUAA1. It’s a new insect repellent that is thousands of times stronger than DEET. It works against all insects, including flies, ants, and moths.

The compound known as VUAA1 was borne of recent discoveries about the fundamental way that mosquitoes smell. Just a few years ago, it was thought that the basic sniffing mechanism for mosquitoes was very similar to that of mammals-that is, that odorant receptors (ORs) sitting atop nerve cells are tuned to different molecules, and when a receptor comes in contact with its target molecule it notifies the brain via the nerve.

It turns out their ORs rely on a sort of nerve switchboard, a co-receptor called Orco. When an OR detects an odorant molecule, it activates while the other ORs on a given antenna remain deactivated. The Orco acts as a sort of switch that tells the brain which OR is activated, and thus what molecule is being detected.

VUAA1 is basically a molecule that triggers the Orco directly rather than the ORs separately. Like a sort of universal signal, it stimulates all OR-Orco connections, essentially simulating the effect of all the different receptors on an antenna firing at once For the mosquito, this creates sensory overload, like tasting something that tastes like every possible flavor at once In the presence of VUAA1, mosquitoes basically can’t smell anything, which confounds their ability to sniff out blood or anything else.


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