DEET, or N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, has remained the primary insect repellent after it was first introduced by the US Army following a sharp rise in malaria cases among troops that were stationed in the Pacific Theatre. However it has a number of limitations, such as being expensive and requires frequent application, which makes it inefficient for use in areas where malaria is endemic.
Following an analysis of nearly half a million potential compounds, researchers have now identified four new compounds that can replace DEET with three of the compounds already being approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The four compounds, methyl N,N-dimethyl anthranilate, ethyl anthranilate and butyl anthranilate, can be applied on clothes, curtains or bed nets and can effectively ward off the mosquitoes. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
"The candidates contain chemicals that do not dissolve plastic, are affordable and smell mildly like grapes, with three considered safe in human foods. Our findings pave the way to discover new generations of repellents that will help fight deadly insect-borne diseases worldwide", the researchers said.