Finding new ways to control diseases from mosquitoes, ticks, and flea bites

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Clearing hurdles: EPA registers CDC-discovered active ingredient for new insecticides and repellents

fresh grapefruit and slices

In August 2020, a new active ingredient, nootkatone, discovered and developed by CDC, was registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in new insecticides and insect repellents for protecting people and pets. Nootkatone repels and kill ticks and mosquitoes. It is responsible for the characteristic smell and taste of grapefruit and is widely used in the fragrance industry to make perfumes and colognes. Nootkatone is found in Alaska yellow cedar trees and grapefruit skin.

CDC’s years-long work with licensed partner Evolva demonstrated that nootkatone is as effective at repelling and killing mosquitoes and ticks as currently available products. Nootkatone-based products will offer people reluctant to use insect repellents currently on the shelves a new option. Another benefit is insecticides with nootkatone will offer a new method for killing mosquitoes that have become resistant to insecticides. The EPA registration paves the way for manufacturers to develop nootkatone-based products for consumers to buy. Nootkatone-based consumer products could be available in 2022.

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NCEZID Centers of Excellence help address mosquito-borne and tickborne diseases

COEs often assist state health departments when there are outbreaks of vector-borne disease.

COEs often assist state health departments when there are outbreaks of vector-borne disease. Pictured here is a mosquito trap used to identify the type of mosquitoes causing an outbreak.

The number of reported cases of vector-borne diseases (spread by mosquitoes, ticks, or fleas) doubled from 2004 to 2018; Lyme disease represents almost 8 in 10 of all cases. In 2020, 350 dengue cases have been reported in Puerto Rico, and almost 70 locally transmitted cases were reported in Florida.

In 2017, CDC established and funded five university-based* Vector-Borne Disease Regional Centers of Excellence (COEs) through 2021. These COEs develop innovative solutions to reduce these diseases and provide training. They also support research on vector-borne disease prevention and control. Collectively, COEs serve millions of people across 41 states and territories.

The centers build regional capacity and collaboration with health departments and the vector control workforce. COEs are training the next generation of critically needed medical entomologists. Since 2017, the COEs have trained over 5,300 professionals and students through over 80 training opportunities.

COEs serve a critical role in preventing and rapidly responding to emerging vector-borne diseases across the United States. For example, one center oversees a central surveillance system that allows public health officials to make data-driven decisions in real time, such as targeting mosquito control efforts to areas where mosquitoes are spreading viruses.

* Cornell University; the University of California, Davis and Riverside; the University of Florida; the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston; and the University of Wisconsin, Madison

2020 NCEZID Accomplishments