Bug Off: Improved Repellents Beat DEET
Compounds Related to Active Ingredient in Peppers May Lead to Longer-Lasting Mosquito Repellents
May 27, 2008 -- Imagine dousing yourself with mosquito repellent at the
start of summer and remaining bite-free nearly all season long.
Researchers in Gainesville, Fla., have identified several potent mosquito
repellents that keep bugs from biting for up to 73 days -- more than three
times longer than the current gold standard, N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, better
known as DEET. DEET is the world's most widely used bug repellent.
Alan Katritzky of the University of Florida and colleagues used artificial
neural networking software to predict how certain compounds called
N-acylpiperidines would keep mosquitoes from feeding on human flesh.
N-acylpiperidines are related to the active ingredient in pepper. The
researchers identified 23 strong candidates, which they expected to be as
effective as DEET.
Two volunteers wore cloth arm patches containing standard amounts of each
compound and placed their gloved arms into a cage swarming with 500 mosquitoes.
A lot of clock watching ensued. Researchers measured the repellent's duration
by simply watching and waiting to see how soon the mosquitoes started feeding
on each arm patch worn by the volunteers.
The experiment showed that "most of these novel acylpiperidines were
equivalent to or better than DEET in duration of protection," Katritzky
writes in the journal article. His team reports that DEET repelled the
mosquitoes for 17.5 days. Some of the pepper-based compounds lasted up to 73
The team published their findings in the May 27 issue of Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences.
But because bug sprays wear off with water and washings, it's unlikely you'd
be able to spray once and keep bugs off all summer -- unless of course you
never shower, sweat, or swim. You should always reapply insect repellents after
such activities. However, longer-lasting mosquito repellents are favorable,
because many of us forget to reapply and don't use protection when we need it
-- and chances are mosquitoes are around even when you don't see them. Using
insect repellent helps protect you against dangerous mosquito-borne diseases
such as West Nile virus and
(What do you find works best to keep
mosquitoes away from you and your family during these hot summer months?
Share with others on WebMD's
Health Cafe message board.)