For Memorial Day weekend campers, two things are almost always certain: rain and mosquitoes. Unfortunately we can’t do anything about the rain, but there’s a new study that may make mountain men everywhere rejoice.
The chemists of the University of Florida and the U.S. department of agriculture feel your pain. They’ve just published a study that might lead to improving the lives mosquito haters everywhere. Currently, the most effective ingredient in insect repellent on the market is DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide). DEET has been the gold standard for over 50 years and it protects us from the various diseases we can contract from mosquito bites such as malaria, West Nile Virus, yellow fever, encephalitis, Lyme disease and dengue fever. DEET is the ingredient used in most insect repellents. Around one third of the American population use insect repellent according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Kenan Professor Alan R Katritzky of the University of Florida led the way having researchers review hundreds of chemicals, data that has been collected by the USDA for the past 50 years. After each chemical was reviewed, they were rated on effectiveness on a scale of 1 to 5. They took all the highest ratings and compared the chemicals in order to figure out what the common factor was.
N-acylpiperidines was the chemical that they found the most effective compounds had in common. N-acylpiperidine, according to the New York Times, is similar to the active ingredient found in pepper. They took 34 of the most effective, then weeded it down to 10, and then again to 7. These 7 chemicals were vigorously scrutinized on factors such as production cost and level of toxicity.
These researchers have found these 7 chemicals that may pave the way to a new and improved mosquito repellent. DEET on average lasts about 17.5 days after its initial application. These new chemicals haven’t been safely tested on fully exposed skin yet, but when they were tested on volunteers they discovered that they were still repelling mosquitoes up to 50 days later. A couple of the chemicals even were found to last 73 days later, about four times longer than DEET.
The tests involved the volunteers wearing gloves with holes in them and then their gloved hands were wrapped in a cloth saturated with the chemical. The volunteer’s wrapped hand would be place into box containing live mosquitoes for precisely one minute; this process was then repeated every day. Failure of the test was determined if 5 mosquitoes or more bit through the cloth.
So far so good, the research holds a lot of potential for creating superior insect repellents everywhere. DEET should enjoy its reign while it can, as it may be replaced soon.