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DEET is volatile and contains human sweat and breath. It works by blocking the 1-octene-3-ol of insect olfactory receptor. The popular theory is that DEET can effectively make insects lose the sense of special smell to human or animals. As people initially suspected, DEET did not affect the olfactory ability of insects to carbon dioxide.
However, recent scientific research has shown that DEET, as a real repellent, works by making mosquitoes uncomfortable Mosquitoes with antennal sensilla of type a olfactory receptor neurons have been identified to respond significantly to DEET, in addition to other known repellents, such as eucalyptus, linalool, and propafenone.