Mosquito still biggest threat to human life
Hematophagous arthropods are extremely annoying but more seriously transmit human and animal pathogens and are a problem all over the world. The Mosquito continues to be the biggest threat to human life due to it’s ability to transmit lethal disease. These vector-borne diseases like Malaria, West Nile, Yellow fever, Dengue fever and Zika are 17% of all infectious diseases, resulting in 700,000 human deaths annually.
Repellents are one of the primary tools in reducing their impact in both humans and animals.
N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) is currently the most effective long lasting repellent available commercially and has been the gold standard. This was used by the military during World War II and commercialised in 1957.
More effective non harmful solutions required for mosquito control
Unfortunately DEET has frequently been associated with human health issues in human beings particularly infants and pregnant women, so constant research continues for effective natural alternatives.
In contrast, natural products including plant essential oils have been used for their repellent properties for at least two millennia in ancient Chine, Egypt and India. Hundreds of studies reporting thousands of plant derived materials with repellent and insecticidal properties have been done in recent years. Unfortunately nearly all plant-based repellents derived from essential oils like Citronella are only effective for a short period of two to four hours due to their high volatility. The maximum protection offered by both plant based oils and DEET is 10 hours.
Breakthrough study used Coconut Fatty Acids to repel hematophagous arthropods
A comprehensive scientific study published in September 2018 found that compounds in the humble coconut have been discovered to be more effective than DEET in repelling blood sucking insects. Read Full Study here
This is a major breakthrough and found that the medium chain 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.
Coconut oil is a highly saturated triglyceride oil know for its rich lauric and myristic acid content. Scientists used special equipment to identify the individual fatty acid composition of coconut oil and then create different mixtures and strengths for each problem arthropod species. Studies have been published demonstrating the need to further understand how medium length fatty acids function as repellents. The delicate interplay between chemical structures and olfactory receptors.
It is not the coconut oil itself that repels insects, but fatty acid compounds that were isolated from the coconut and then applied in the correct ratio of compounds and strength.
A softer approach to Mosquito control required
This is important research in the battle for a softer approach against the mosquito. Bill Gates led the charge in lobbying extensively against a moratorium on gene drives and succeeded in stopping this. He has been funding the expansion of gene drives using the mosquito to open the door to this dangerous and reckless technology.
Gene Drives are a sledge hammer, stealth approach to control
In 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized the release of up to 2.4 million modified mosquitos in several harder-hit counties in Florida and California, giving the green light to Oxitec, a biotech company based in the United Kingdom that creates genetically modified mosquitoes.
What started as a dire emergency to control malaria, has now morphed into Oxitec and the trademark ‘Friendly’ insects. We now have the ‘Friendly’ Fall Armyworm, Cattle Tick, Soybean looper, Mediteranean Fruit Fly and Diamondback Moth all coming in under the banner of Sustainability. This reminds me of the promises of the Green Revolution back in the seventies and look how that turned out. Programs are being implemented in Brazil, Florida, California, Djibouti, RMI and Panama.
Dangerous solutions with unknown consequences
Oxitec says they have proved that their products are safe to humans and the environment, however no amount of study would be exhaustive enough to know this for sure. There is an element of ‘Playing God’ here, and of course plenty of money to be made. Imagine if Bill Gates had put his money into more research on the humble coconut, why it has systematically been poisoned since the seventies and the promise that it gives to all creatures on earth as the ‘Tree of Life’
“Genetic extinction technologies are a false and dangerous solution to the problem of biodiversity loss,” Erich Pica, president of the Friends of the Earth, said in a statement signed by anti-GMO campaigners that called the technology reckless.
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