The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, commonly known as DARPA, has launched a program that aims to protect the military from mosquitoes. This is mainly to prevent them from being exposed to communicable diseases during their missions abroad.
DARPA is the US Department of Defense agency responsible for the research and development of new technologies for military use. It has launched a new program called ReVector, announced in a statement released May 3, 2019. According to the agency, mosquitoes pose the greatest threat to troops on mission in other countries.
Despite the solutions that have always existed — namely, repellents, drugs and mosquito nets — there is now talk of using technology. Indeed, DARPA wants to develop a prevention method based on the modification of the microbiota of the skin! It is true that more than a million bacteria and fungi live on our skin. However, all this little world generates a smell more or less attractive to mosquitoes. In addition, some people are more likely to attract mosquitoes than others.
In its publication, DARPA explains that the first step is to identify the microbes that produce the most effective mosquito signatures. As for practical solutions, several tracks are being followed. For now, researchers are thinking about the use of probiotics and prebiotics. In other words, it is a question of feeding the microbes already present on the skin or adding new ones. Another track incorporates the possibility of using the famous CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors.
The goal is to develop a reversible treatment that is easy to apply and requires little maintenance. In addition, it should not generate side effects while providing protection for a period of at least two weeks. It should also be known that this treatment will be designed to protect the military against the three most common mosquitoes, namely Aedes, Anopheles and Culex.
DARPA researchers do not hide the fact that this venture will be difficult. According to them, the diversity of the metabolism and microbiota of individuals makes the development of a universal treatment complicated. In addition, mosquitoes are sensitive to an impressive variety of chemical molecules, so finding the perfect mix will not be easy!