CDC has big plans for grapefruit ingredient that repels bloodthirsty bugs

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced the discovery of a chemical found in grapefruit peels that can effectively repel bloodthirsty insects like ticks and mosquitos. The agency has big plans for this compound, which it has registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for use in insect repellants and insecticides. What's so special about this chemical? It works differently from existing insecticides, effectively killing pests that bite and, as a result, reducing the presence of bloodborne diseases like Lyme disease.

Nootkatone is the active ingredient identified and developed by the CDC, it announced in its own press release on Monday. This chemical is found in minuscule quantities in grapefruit peel, giving it the expected grapefruit scent and taste. For this reason, nootkatone has been used widely in the fragrance industry for years but has only recently been found suitable for use as an insect repellant.

The CDC explains that nootkatone not only repels bloodthirsty and otherwise bite-prone insects but also kills them — and it does so in a way that differs from other commonly used pesticides like organophosphates and pyrethroids. However, the agency doesn't go into detail about this difference nor whether the ingredient is safer in large quantities than these (often controversial) commercial insecticide alternatives.

Because the chemical has been registered by the EPA, the CDC says that it is now available for use in insecticides, as well as insect repellants designed for use with humans and pets. Evolva, one of the CDC's partners, is said to be in advanced talks with major manufacturers about getting this ingredient on the market.

The EPA is now open to receiving registration packages from manufacturers that want to make consumer-tier branded products with nootkatone as the active ingredient. Reviews of these registrations will take place and, ideally, the CDC says that the first round of products may hit the market by early 2022. The products could be used to repel ticks, mosquitos, biting flies, and other similar bugs.