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The US Department of Agriculture is at war – with insects and it’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Maryland is working hard to provide troops with gear that protects them from disease-causing insects. Protecting troops from insects has even more support now due to a new USDA-DOD initiative and research program called the Deployed War-Fighter Protection Research Program. USDA’s research department has long worked to find better insecticides and is now applying their knowledge to treating tents, camouflage and other gear.
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In 2003, 80 out of 225 U.S. marines deployed on a mission to Liberia came down with malaria, but no deaths were associated with that incident. According to U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Burkett, research liaison officer with the Armed Forces Pest Management Board (AFPMB), “The trouble with most widely used insecticides is that we have fewer available active ingredients for public-health pest control, and at the same time, we have a global increase in insecticide resistance to our best chemical tools.” Disease-causing insects area huge problem for troops, but a new research division through the USDA for the DOD is helping to win that battle. The Deployed War-Fighter Protection Research Program (DWFP) is currently working on a number of new insecticides and new ways to treat military gear to repel insects and keep troops safe.
One researcher, Entomologist Seth Britch who is also a captain in the US Army Reserve, is improving techniques to coat tents, netting and other military fabrics with insecticides to keep the insects away from troops while they are sleeping, eating, resting or working. Depending on where the troops are deployed to depends on whether the materials are treated with insecticides for mosquitos or sand flies. The treatment needs to withstand travel, time, sun, heat and many more elements to remain effective for the troops.
Another research department is working on improving insecticides from plant-derived compounds for topical application to deter insects. This division in Gainesville, FL is developing promising natural alternatives that may even be more effective than DEET using such plants as the American Beautyberry, Jatropha curcas seed oil and breadfruit. While DEET has proved effective for both military and home use, many people feel uncomfortable using the compound and ARS wants to find even safer and healthier options. And even another department is working on treating uniforms with repellants and designing special textiles to protect the wearer from being bit.
[Via Biomimicry News]