Brazil's military spent 20 years working on a 'miracle gel' mosquito repellent that they have no plans to sell

Brazil’s military apparently has been working on a super effective mosquito repellent for 20 years.

The gel repellent contains the active ingredient DEET that’s in many bug sprays. And those who can get their hands on it say it works so well that they can’t get enough, as The New York Times’ Randal Archibold attested to after getting some from a Brazilian soldier in Haiti.

“I strained to conserve this miracle gel for the remaining days of that trip and subsequent ones, despairing when it ran out,” said in The Times.

The bad news: It doesn’t appear that you can get this repellent in the drugstore.

It’s not clear why the gel would work so much better anecdotally than other repellents that contain DEET. When The Times asked about the ingredients in the gel, the army’s public relations said it contained “similar” amounts of DEET to products you’d find in the drugstore and didn’t clarify if there were other ingredients involved that could make the gel more effective.

The Brazil Ministry of Health was reportedly going to be passed out to pregnant women at the beginning of the Zika outbreak in December, but that didn’t happen because the labs couldn’t ramp up production enough.

Zika, which is transmitted mainly by mosquitoes, has been spreading around the Americas over the past year, and is now reported in a neighbourhood in Miami. Only about 20% of people who are infected with Zika ever show symptoms, which most commonly include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. One reason Zika is troubling is that it is a cause of birth defects, including microcephaly — a condition where the baby’s head is abnormally small — in babies whose mothers have had Zika, which is why the ministry of health wanted the repellent for pregnant mothers.

The WHO does not expect Zika to be at risk of spreading internationally during the Olympics, as August is a drier winter month for Brazil.

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