Figure 1: Mosquitos potentially carry a range of deadly diseases, from malaria to yellow fever, James Gathany, 09 March 2022
According to ReVector program manager, Dr Linda Chrisey, “Phase 1 of the program focused on identifying microbial or metabolic targets that produce molecules relevant to mosquito attraction and feeding, and designing microbiome alterations to reduce said attraction”. “In Phase 2, the team plans to advance to testing in animal models and more complex microbiome communities.”
Ultimately, the ReVector program aims to reduce mosquito attraction and maintain the health of military personnel operating in disease-endemic regions by developing topical formulations. DARPA’s second phase is to get down to the molecular level to make a topical cream that would alter the microbiome of human skin to make it less appetising to the disease-carrying mosquitos. The cream would be applied shortly before a mission with minimal equipment or training and last for at least two weeks without reapplication, offering sustained protection against mosquitos.
Throughout human history, militaries have struggled with mosquito-borne maladies, from the million-plus cases that waylaid soldiers during the Civil War to the over 80,000 cases among United States (U.S.) servicemembers in Vietnam. Even though a vast majority of those survived, the disease disrupted the forces’ ability to fight in critical moments. Army researchers currently estimate that malaria infections are responsible for up to 21,000 lost work hours and between $1.2 and $4.4 million per year in evacuation and medical costs.
DARPA is working with Stanford University researchers on the project. As a ReVector performer, Stanford University researchers will continue to engage with U.S. government and DoD stakeholders throughout the program lifecycle. All research funded by the program will be subject to regular review by an independent laboratory and by regulatory agencies, including the US Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, to ensure that technologies are effective and do not pose a threat to humans or the environment.
Written by Vasiliski Psychogiou
Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. (2022). DARPA Program to Reduce Mosquito Attraction and Biting Moves into Second Phase. Retrieved from: https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2022-02-16
Ferran, L. (2022, 07 March). DARPA wants to alter human skin biomes to fight deadliest enemy: mosquitos. Breaking Defence. Retrieved from: https://breakingdefense.com/2022/03/darpa-wants-to-alter-human-skin-biomes-to-fight-deadliest-enemy-mosquitos/?utm_campaign=Breaking%20News&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=206112442&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–QNZL63LtfNnlGghFWy-PdvhiAzmhkbtXRfExRopiwJ3J9Qbmt9F4ITLhYL1e8eivc_tA9g4AW1RFGCLJK7fGoiFLvzA&utm_content=206112442&utm_source=hs_email
Socrates Bardi, J. (2021, 28 January). Hacking the Skin Microbiome to Fool Mosquitos and Prevent Malaria. Neo-Life. Retrieved from: https://neo.life/2021/01/hacking-the-skin-microbiome-to-fool-mosquitos-and-prevent-malaria/