Hematophagous arthropods are capable of transmitting human and animal pathogens worldwide. Vector-borne diseases account for 17% of all infectious diseases resulting in 700,000 human deaths annually. Repellents are a primary tool for reducing the impact of biting arthropods on humans and animals. N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), the most effective and long-lasting repellent currently available commercially, has long been considered the gold standard in insect repellents, but with reported human health issues, particularly for infants and pregnant women. In the present study, we report fatty acids derived from coconut oil which are novel, inexpensive and highly efficacious repellant compounds. These coconut fatty acids are active against a broad array of blood-sucking arthropods including biting flies, ticks, bed bugs and mosquitoes. The medium-chain length fatty acids from C8:0 to C12:0 were found to exhibit the predominant repellent activity. In laboratory bioassays, these fatty acids repelled biting flies and bed bugs for two weeks after application, and ticks for one week. Repellency was stronger and with longer residual activity than that of DEET. In addition, repellency was also found against mosquitoes. An aqueous starch-based formulation containing natural coconut fatty acids was also prepared and shown to protect pastured cattle from biting flies up to 96-hours in the hot summer, which, to our knowledge, is the longest protection provided by a natural repellent product studied to date.
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This study was partly supported by the 2017 USDA-ARS Innovation Fund (to JJZ). Research conducted at the University of Kentucky was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture (KY008066). Research conducted at Rutgers University was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA and the Agriculture Hatch project 1001098 through the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
Zhu, Junwei J.; Cermak, Steven C.; Kenar, James A.; Brewer, Gary; Haynes, Kenneth F.; Boxler, Dave; Baker, Paul D.; Wang, Desen; Wang, Changlu; Li, Andrew Y.; Xue, Rui-de; Shen, Yuan; Wang, Fei; Agramonte, Natasha M.; Bernier, Ulrich R.; de Oliveira Filho, Jaires G.; Borges, Ligia M. F.; Friesen, Kristina; and Taylor, David B., "Better than DEET Repellent Compounds Derived from Coconut Oil" (2018). Entomology Faculty Publications. 175.