LONDON: Britain’s defense laboratory will determine whether insect repellent could be used to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) is reportedly hopeful that its insect repellent tests could prove fruitful.
One of its components, citriodiol, is known to be effective at destroying various viral strains. It is hoped that the same product could be used against the COVID-19 strain.
An MoD spokesperson said scientists at the UK’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) are investigating the possible treatment.
“Further work is required to determine its full effectiveness, acquisition and distribution,” the spokesperson added.
Last week, it was reported that British soldiers — who have been called up to carry out testing and organize logistical efforts in the UK’s fight — were being issued an insect repellent to help prevent the spread of the virus. Priority had been given to troops at highest risk of contracting the virus, but the MoD assured journalists that using the repellent was optional guidance, not a requirement.
“Citriodiol is known to have anti-viral properties and has been used as a barrier against the SARS 1 virus,” the spokesperson said, referring to the strain behind the 2003 epidemic.
“Its utility for protecting against COVID-19 is therefore being explored by the MoD as an additional protective measure for personnel working on the response.”
Phillip Ingram, a former senior British military intelligence officer, told Arab News that the DSTL “will be interested in data regarding troops who use the repellent getting infected.”
He said: “Historically, troops have been used in research projects. They have to be volunteers, and trials have to be carried out with the same checks and balances as a civilian trial.”
He added: “The DSTL will have seen the original SARS CoV 1 studies, and will be examining this and all others to see their results with SARS CoV 2. The DSTL has the most sophisticated Level 4 labs designed to look at these sorts of threats and evaluate countermeasures.”
Jacqueline Watson, managing director of Citrefine International Ltd., the company that makes citriodiol, said it stays on the skin for several hours, meaning it could guarantee longer and more effective protection than soap and water.
Watson said her firm requested government support for a testing program to assess if its product could provide an effective barrier against COVID-19.
“I can understand why people are skeptical. They’re right that we don’t have data against this particular virus. However, there’s data against other coronaviruses,” said Watson.
“I’m certainly not an expert in this area, but having talked to experts, there’s good reason to think it may well work against this. But that’s why it’s just so important to get it tested really thoroughly at a specialist laboratory.”