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DEET's nastiness extends to humans

Study finds the bug-repellent ingredient stopped an enzyme from doing its job

By
11:25am, August 5, 2009

DEET, the active ingredient in many bug repellents, doesn’t only cripple mosquitoes — it also meddles with mammals. A new study examining DEET’s effects on insects, mice and human proteins reports that the chemical interferes with a prominent central nervous system enzyme. This effect is magnified when exposure to DEET is combined with exposure to certain pesticides, researchers report online August 4 in BMC Biology.

The results are consistent with previous studies, says Bahie Abou-Donia of the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C, who was not involved in the new work.

“DEET is a good chemical for protection against insects,” he says. “But prolonged exposure results in neurological damage, and this is enhanced by other chemicals and medications.”

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