Press Kit: Nootkatone

What to know

  • Nootkatone is an active ingredient that can be used for developing insect repellents and insecticides.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration paves the way for manufacturers to develop nootkatone-based products for consumers to buy, including repellents, lotions, and soaps.
Person applying insect repellent to their arm


Every state and U.S. territory is at risk for vector-borne diseases (VBDs). The number of reported VBD cases doubled from 2004 to 2018. Tickborne diseases represent almost 80 percent of reported VDB cases in the contiguous United States. Ten vector-borne pathogens were newly identified in the United States in the past 16 years, including chikungunya virus, Zika virus, and six tickborne pathogens.

For various reasons, many people don’t like to use insect repellents. To address mosquito- and tickborne disease threats, products that people accept and are willing to use to protect themselves from bites are needed. In addition, mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to insecticides. New publicly supported insecticide options are necessary.

On July 20, 2020 the EPA announced registration of nootkatone for manufacturing use into insecticides and repellents. CDC was instrumental in early efforts to demonstrate that nootkatone can repel and kill arthropod vectors, including mosquitoes and ticks. Building on CDC's earlier work, a collaboration between CDC, the HHS Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority, and an industry partner, Evolva, resulted in EPA registration of nootkatone as a biopesticide. This makes possible the development of nootkatone-based products targeting mosquitoes and ticks. CDC and Evolva jointly own patents for the use of nootkatone to repel and kill arthropod pathogen vectors.

About nootkatone

  • A compound found in minute quantities in Alaska yellow cedar trees and grapefruit skin.
  • Able to repel and kill ticks and insects, including mosquitoes.
  • Responsible for the characteristic smell and taste of grapefruit.
  • Widely used in the food industry to flavor foods.
  • Widely used in the fragrance industry to make perfumes and colognes.
    • Lasts on skin and clothing for several hours.
    • Currently used in citrus-smelling shampoos, conditioners, and lotions.
Grapefruit skins contain nootkatone.
Grapefruit skins contain nootkatone.

It takes several tons of grapefruit to produce just 1 kg (2.2 lb.) of nootkatone. Evolva’s manufacturing process allows nootkatone to be made in large amounts in a consistent and contaminant-free manner. Once rare and expensive, nootkatone is now being produced at a low cost.

Nootkatone is an active ingredient

  • Nootkatone is an active ingredient. It is not an end-use (brand name) product.
  • Active ingredients are what make end-use products effective.
  • As an example, DEET is an active ingredient that is used in many brand name insect repellents.

Novel mode of action

  • Nootkatone appears to kill biting pests in a unique way, different from other insecticides already registered by the EPA, including pyrethroids, organophosphates, carbamates, and cyclodienes.
  • Insecticides made with nootkatone may help in the fight against mosquitoes that have become resistant to existing insecticides.


An Aedes aegypti adult female mosquito feeds on a person.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread viruses, including dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Blacklegged tick questing on a stick.
The blacklegged tick can spread up to seven types of pathogens, including the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Person applying insect repellent to their arm.
The best way to protect yourself and your family from mosquito and tick bites is to using an EPA-registered insect repellent.