Porton Down scientists testing whether insect repellent can protect against Covid-19

Porton Down scientists testing whether insect repellent can protect against Covid-19

Published by Henrietta Creasey at 8:18am 29th April 2020. (Updated at 8:20am 29th April 2020)

3 minute read

Citriodiol is already known to destroy other coronaviruses but could it kill the strain that has caused the pandemic?

Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down have been asked to conduct further studies to look into the product which is made from oil from the leaves and twigs of the eucalyptus citriodora tree.

Jacqueline Watson is the MD of Citrefine International Ltd which makes citriodiol

"There is some data that indicated it works against other coronaviruses, therefore there is a good likelihood that it will work against the virus which causes Covid-19. It just has to be tested."

She described how citriodiol had been proven to breakdown the envelope around other coronaviruses, killing the disease.

The product would not guard against inhalation but could kill the virus on a person's skin before it could be transferred anywhere else.


A spokesperson for the MoD said  

"Citriodiol is known to have anti-viral properties and has been used as a barrier against the SARS 1 virus. Its utility for protecting against COVID-19 is therefore being explored by the Ministry of Defence as an additional protective measure for personnel working on the response. Further work is required to determine its full effectiveness, acquisition and distribution."  

Porton Down satellite view
Scientists at the Wiltshire base have been asked to conduct further studies into citriodiol.


Some soldiers are already being issued with Mosi Guard, a type of insect repellent that contains citriodiol, as part of "enhanced force health protection measures" during the crisis.

Priority will be given to personnel who are involved in operational roles and troops who are supporting the government's effort to tackle coronavirus, according to military sources.

Use is optional, not obligatory, and the spray would be in addition to social distancing, handwashing and wearing personal protective equipment.

The Ministry of Defence said there has been no widespread rollout.

The issuing of insect repellent has triggered curiosity among MPs.

Two opposition defence spokespeople and the chair of the Defence Select Committee have written separately to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to request further details.

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