Nootkatone for Insecticide and Repellent Development

Photo depicts a woman’s leg being sprayed with mosquito repellent. CDC, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

CDC photo, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

CDC’s NCEZID and TTO staff have transferred technology that employs a naturally derived substance for controlling arthropod (e.g., mosquito, tick, and flea) pest populations. The active ingredient, nootkatone, is found in Alaska yellow cedar trees (also known as the Nootka cypress), some herbs, and citrus fruits. CDC biologists have found nootkatone to be an effective repellent and insecticide for use against ticks (i.e., the blacklegged tick) and other insects, including Aedes mosquitoes that spread Zika and other viruses. Nootkatone appears to work differently compared to currently available insecticides and may be a valuable new option for fighting the growing problem of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes. It can be used on skin and lawns. To expand available insect repellent options, nootkatone could be formulated to be used in soaps, sprays, and lotions.

This technology transfer, completed with our partners at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), addresses a complex problem. Virtually everyone on earth is vulnerable to diseases from viruses and bacteria transmitted to people through vectors. West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are the most well-known vector-borne diseases in the United States. Dengue, a major health problem, infects as many as 400 million worldwide each year. Increasing global travel, urbanization, and weather changes are contributing to vector-borne disease outbreaks in new regions and countries. These diseases can be difficult to prevent and control, particularly since vaccines are available for only a few vector-borne diseases.

CDC’s technology transferred included three US and key international patents. The technology transfer efforts included perseverance and multiple agreements that ultimately resulted in an exclusive license and follow up Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with a commercial partner. CDC has worked with this partner on evaluating various formulations and helping with questions for US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review of nootkatone as a biopesticide. Currently, EPA has ruled that the technology meets the standards for biopesticide classification. Added tests are underway so that EPA may approve the compound for commercial use.

Public health research “takes a village” requiring the input and collaborative effort of partners to achieve success. These patented technologies will be further developed and commercialized to help control mosquitoes and prevent transmissions of the viruses they may carry.

Page last reviewed: November 2, 2017
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