Wet weather in Indiana is bringing out the mosquitoes. Can the mosquito repellent be far behind? The old standby mosquito repellent DEET was developed by the US Army in the 1950s. Out of thousands of chemicals tested, DEET had the best combination of human safety and mosquito repellency. For those in area with heavy mosquito populations, DEET is a useful protectant against mosquito bites and diseases vectored by mosquitoes.
The US Center for Disease Control is investigating the use of a new mosquito repellent and insecticide, nootkatone. Nootkatone is a natural product found in the peels of grapefruits and has commercial uses as a fragrance. Nootkatone is selectively toxic to arthropods and has low toxicity to mammals in safety tests.
Nootkatone has a toxic and deterrent affect on many arthropods including ticks, mosquitoes and fleas. Ticks treated with nootkatone will detach from the skin and mosquitoes will leave nootkatone treated skin without feeding. The mode of action of nootkatone on arthropods is not known. Its action may involve unique targets in the arthropod nervous system.
Even though natural products can be just as toxic or more toxic than synthetic chemicals, some consumers express a preference for natural products. An effective natural product alternative to DEET may encourage more people to protect themselves against mosquito and tick vectored diseases.