The New Mosquito Repellent That Works Better Than DEET!

In the age-old battle against mosquitoes, DEET has proven effective at keeping this enemy at bay, but stinky mosquito repellents and protection don’t last long. Now, ACS researchers report Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry They designed safe alternatives that have some advantages over DEET, including a pleasant scent and longer protection from bites.

DEET disrupts the ability of mosquitoes to locate humans. Until recently, it was considered the gold standard among topical insect repellents, but some found its strong smell unpleasant. It must be reapplied frequently, and in high concentrations, it can damage synthetic fabrics and plastics. Another repellent known as picaridin is now considered a better alternative, because its protective effect lasts longer, and it doesn’t have a smell or bad substances. However, like DEET, it must be reapplied after swimming or sweating.

Therefore, Francesca Dani and her colleagues wanted to research alternatives to these well-established products. In previous work, the team used as raw materials two natural, plant-based repellents that provide only short-term protection from mosquitoes. The researchers converted these terpenoids into cyclic acetals and hydroxyacetals, thus extending their period of protection beyond that of DEET. But the researchers wanted to improve on these early products.

In the present work, the team synthesized additional cyclohydroxyacetals from inexpensive, commercially available carbonyls. The new cyclic compounds had pleasant, faint odors and were easier to dissolve in water, which meant they could be formulated without high concentrations of alcohol. Some have been as effective as DEET and picaridin in repelling the Asian tiger mosquito, which has spread widely in the United States and transmits diseases, including encephalitis, dengue fever, and heartworms to dogs. And like picaridin, they provided human volunteers with more than 95% protection from bites for at least eight hours, while DEET’s protection quickly dropped below that level after just two hours. The toxicity of some of the most active new compounds was similar or lower than that of conventional repellents. Two-hydroxyacetals were less likely to cause immune reactions or penetrate cell layers than picaridin. The researchers concluded that their compounds represent a promising new class of mosquito repellents that could rival DEET and picaridin in terms of efficacy and safety.

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