The grapefruit aroma nootkatone is now in field trials to assess its effectiveness against mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus. Good news for Evolva, which figured out a SynBio process to produce the compound.
Recently, the Zika went from being considered a mild virus to a public health emergency. As the virus was linked with infant microcephaly, there was a rush to stop its spread. Developing a protective vaccine is key to those efforts, with Sanofi Pasteur and Themis (Austria) amongst those already working towards such a therapy.
However, biotech is also targeting another component of the Zika spread – the mosquitoes that transmit it. This ranges from the controversial release of genetically engineered mosquitoes to novel insecticides and repellents – such as nootkatone.
Nootkatone is a natural compound and part of what gives grapefruits their aroma, and has known properties which repel insects. The compound would make for an interesting commercial repellant and insecticide,