Coronavirus: Scientists investigating if insect repellent can kill Covid-19

Citriodiol has a history of anti-viral properties and has been used against types of coronavirus

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A: People disinfect bins in Jumeirah in response to the corona virus. Wednesday, March 25th, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Scientists at the UK’s defence ministry are investigating whether insect repellent can be used to destroy Covid-19.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in Wiltshire is carrying out the tests on the wider use of Citriodiol, an ingredient in insect repellent, which has a history of killing certain types of coronavirus.

“Citriodiol is known to have anti-viral properties and has been used as a barrier against the Sars 1 virus,” said a representative of the Ministry of Defence.

“Its utility for protecting against Covid-19 is, therefore, being explored by the ministry as an additional protective measure for personnel working on the response. Further work is required to determine its full effectiveness, acquisition and distribution.”

The UK has not followed the UAE in spraying the streets with disinfectants or installing germ-killing booths.

Jacqueline Watson, managing director of Citrefine International, the Yorkshire company that makes Citriodiol, said the product needed to be thoroughly tested but remained optimistic it could be used.

The revelation was first reported by Sky News, which last week reported that soldiers were being given Mosi Guard, a type of insect repellent that contains citriodiol.

The ministry said the use of Citriodol would be part of a “layered approach” to bolster the safety of its personnel including the use of personal protective equipment.

But the move is not without controversy, with one MP questioning why Citriodiol was not being distributed to health workers if it was so effective.

"The government must make public the evidence behind the decision to supply our armed forces with Citriodiol,” said Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone.

"If there is evidence that Citriodiol is effective in protecting people against coronavirus, then I am thrilled that our armed forces are being supplied with it. However, this does beg the question: why aren't all key workers being given it?

"On the other hand, if there is no evidence that Citriodiol is effective, then why waste precious resources stockpiling the stuff and giving it out? Surely that money would be better spent on procuring PPE?” he said.

EDITOR'S PICKS