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Mosquito Repellents

July 23, 2008

DEET has been repelling mosquitoes for over 50 years, but scientists are now developing more effective alternatives.


A new generation of mosquito repellents….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Malaria kills millions of people around the world every year, and it’s a serious health concern for military personal working in tropical areas. To fight malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses, the U.S. military developed DEET back in 1957. But DEET is sticky, has an unpleasant odor, and only lasts for so long. Research chemist Uli Bernier of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and his colleagues recently searched through 60 years of chemical data from which they synthesized 34 promising new repellents.

ULRICH BERNIER (USDA Agricultural Research Service):
When we tested these chemicals in a laboratory every volunteer indicated that there was no offensive odor.

What’s more, 23 of the compounds were just as effective as DEET, and some of those lasted more than three times as long. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.