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Med Vet Entomol. 2013 Mar;27(1):1-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2915.2012.01020.x. Epub 2012 May 25.

Insect repellents and associated personal protection for a reduction in human disease.

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Department of Preventive Health Services, Academy of Health Sciences, US Army Medical Department Center and School, Fort Sam Houston, TX, USA.


Personal protection measures against biting arthropods include topical insect repellents, area repellents, insecticide-treated bednets and treated clothing. The literature on the effectiveness of personal protection products against arthropods is mainly limited to studies of prevention of bites, rather than prevention of disease. Tungiasis was successfully controlled by application of topical repellents and scrub typhus was reduced through the use of treated clothing. Successful reduction of leishmaniasis was achieved through the use of topical repellents, treated bednets and treated clothing in individual studies. Malaria has been reduced by the use of insecticide-treated bednets (ITN), certain campaigns involving topical repellents, and the combination of treated bednets and topical repellents. Although area repellents such as mosquito coils are used extensively, their ability to protect humans from vector-transmitted pathogens has not been proven. Taken together, the literature indicates that personal protection measures must be used correctly to be effective. A study that showed successful control of malaria by combining treated bednets and topical repellents suggests that combinations of personal protection measures are likely to be more effective than single methods. Implementation of successful programmes based on personal protection will require a level of cooperation commonly associated with other basic societal functions, such as education and food safety.

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