An Asian wild ox is helping scientists in the fight against pesky mosquitoes. Researchers have succeeded in determining the exact structure of a compound that gaurs excrete as a mosquito deterrent and synthesizing it in the laboratory.

The results could help control the spread of mosquitoes that carry tropical diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria.

Researchers had previously determined the basic building blocks of gaur acid–a ring made of four carbon atoms and one oxygen atom with two different side chains–but just how the atoms were arranged remained unclear.

P. Andrew Evans of Indiana University and his colleagues designed a new synthesis that successfully recreated gaur acid. The feat was complicated because the molecule is chiral, which means that there are “left-“ and “right-“ handed versions that are mirror images but are not superposable, and only one of them is biologically active.

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