With an unusual mixture of organic ingredients that "were not in its plans," the Chilean company Grupo Avance says it has discovered an innovative formula that acts as a repellent of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, carrier of the Zika virus, dengue fever and other diseases.

"We got to this by merging several projects — we were never looking for a solution for the Zika virus," Grupo Avance general manager and biochemist Mario Reyes told EFE. "We had graphene, copper powder, lactone and we put them all together. That's all." 

Reyes said that washing clothes at home with this Zika-repellent detergent is enough to avoid getting bitten by the mosquito that for months has had the tropical regions of Latin America on the alert.

The inventor says this is a "bioadditive" that, when mixed with normal detergent, provides protective clothing for people who live in or travel to areas affected by the carrier mosquito.

"We produce lactone, a natural, non-toxic insecticide; we develop graphene, which turns the mosquito away, and copper powder, an excellent antibacterial substance," Reyes said, explaining how this serendipitous formula was produced.

If confirmed scientifically, this discovery could be of immense value in preventing the spread of Zika in countries like Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, the latter country a place where hydrocephalic babies have been born of mothers infected by the disease.

Also in Chile the authorities are on the alert because of the dengue cases detected on Easter Island, a Chilean territory some 2,240 miles from the South American continent, which welcomes more than 100,000 tourists a year.

"To lay their eggs, the females need the blood of mammals. If they don't have it, their population shrinks. That is the control strategy," the biochemist said.

The Grupo Avance laboratory, located in the industrial area on Santiago's north side, bears little resemblance to an important research complex, and its scientists don't even wear gloves or safety glasses.

Reyes says this is because the more than 20 products prepared by its work team and distributed by the company "are innocuous for humans." 

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