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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Mosquito and Fly Research

Title: Chemical means of protecting US military personnel from mosquito bites

item Bernier, Ulrich - Uli

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2014
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Since 1942, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has examined over 30,000 repellents and insecticides for the U.S. military. The repellent research has focused on discovery of repellents that work on clothing, skin, and at a distance (spatial repellents). Borne out of this research is the discovery of the skin repellent N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET) in 1952, and in the mid 1980s, the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) completed studies that led to permethrin as a new repellent impregnate for military combat uniforms. Field treatment of uniforms with permethrin became standard practice in 1991. In August, 2003, a mission involving deployment of 225 US military personnel in Monrovia, Liberia was aborted because 84 of those personnel, mostly Marines, became infected with malaria. This failed mission was one of the reasons why the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) elected to move from field treatment of uniforms to factory-production of permethrin-treated uniforms with the goal of having the repellent finish remain effective over the lifetime of the uniform. In 2007, the USMC became the first major U.S. military branch to transition from field treatment of combat uniforms to a stock supply that was entirely manufactured and treated at the factory level. The US Army transitioned to factory-level production of combat uniforms in 2009. Current research in this area focuses upon optimization of bite protection on new uniform constructions, studies on the performance of field worn uniforms, and examination of alternative uniform treatments. The Deployed War-Fighter Program (DWFP) began funding research in USDA in 2004. As a result of this increased funding, a substantial amount of research has occurred in the area of understanding how topically applied skin repellents function and in the development of new chemicals that can repel or kill mosquitoes and other biting flies. Collaborations with several USDA laboratories have resulted in discoveries of repellents and insecticides from natural products. The USDA-ARS facility in Gainesville is responsible for determining the repellent efficacy of candidate repellents submitted by collaborating institutions, as well as conducting an “in-house” effort to understand better how chemical structure relates to the observed repellency. A class of “spatial repellents” called “attraction inhibitors” has been discovered that somehow masks the detection of attractive odors (kairomones) rather than produces a repellent effect on mosquitoes and biting flies. This may offer a low toxicity alternative to personal protection from mosquitoes and other biting arthropods. This presentation will cover the USDA efforts to discover new synthetic and natural product topical and spatial repellents, and the latest research with repellent-treated US military combat uniforms.

Last Modified: 10/16/2017
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