A chemical found in grapefruit's skin works to repel bloodsucking insects

A chemical found in grapefruit's skin works to repel bloodsucking insects

Newly discovered insect repellent

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that a chemical found in grapefruit peel is effective in keeping ticks and mosquitoes, other blood-sucking insects, away. The agency has big plans for the compound, which is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is used in insect repellents and insecticides. What's so special about this chemical? Unlike existing insecticides, it is effective in killing biting pests and thus reducing the occurrence of blood-borne diseases such as Lyme disease. Nootkatone is the active ingredient identified and developed by the CDC, the agency announced in a press release on Monday. This chemical is found in very small amounts in the peel, but gives it the desired pomelo aroma and taste. For this reason, nootkatone has been widely used in the fragrance industry for many years, but has only recently been found to be suitable for use as a repellent.

Negotiate with manufacturers

Nootkatone not only repels insects that feed on blood and other insects that bite people, it also kills them -- and it's different from other commonly used pesticides like organophosphates and pyrethroids, the CDC explains. However, the agency did not specify the difference or whether the ingredient is safer in large quantities than these (and often controversial) commercial insecticide alternatives. Because the chemical is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, the CDC says it can now be used in insecticides, as well as insect repellents designed for humans and pets. Evolva, one of the CDC's partners, is said to be in advanced talks with major manufacturers to launch products containing the ingredient.

Products ready for market

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has now begun accepting applications from manufacturers who want to produce consumer-grade branded products with Nootkatone as the active ingredient. The agency said it would review the registrations. Ideally, the first round could be available in early 2022, the CDC said. These products can be used to repel ticks, mosquitoes, biting flies and other similar bugs.

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