Since 1948, military men and women have smeared on DEET, otherwise known as N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, to repel the itchy, the deadly, and the otherwise annoying. DEET is effective but unloved--it literally melts plastic--and the US military has been working for some time to find a replacement. The newcomer is called SS-220.

At the army's Aberbeen Proving Ground in Maryland, SS-220 has passed toxicity tests for short-duration exposure. Lab tests with human volunteers and mosquitoes, Anopheles stephensi (a malaria carrier) and Aedes aegypti (a yellow fever carrier) confirm that SS-220 repels as well as DEET.1 Col. Daniel Strickman of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, in Washington, DC, who has access to one of the few sand fly colonies in the country, says that SS-220 equals DEET in repelling the sand flies, which transmit leishmaniasis.

A company now negotiating to develop SS-220 "has done its homework" says Jerome Klun, research...

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