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Repellent-treated apparel protects against tick bites

04
Apr '11
A pilot study conducted by researchers at The University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health shows that a group of state water quality employees who wore clothing treated with a long-lasting insect repellent were bitten by ticks substantially less often than were their colleagues who used insect spray repellents and other preventive measures.

The study, released March 11, in the peer-reviewed journal, Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, reported that the incidence of tick attachments was reduced by 93 percent among workers wearing Insect Shield Repellent Apparel, compared to workers in similar environments who used spray repellents or other tick bite prevention methods.

Dr. Steve MeshnickTick-borne diseases are a significant concern for the millions of people who often work in tick-infested habitats. If not treated early, these diseases can lead to severe illness or even death, said Steve Meshnick, MD, PhD, UNC epidemiology professor and lead author of the study. Over the past two decades, the incidence of diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever has been increasing.

The apparel products also have been shown to repel mosquitoes, ants, flies, chiggers and midges (no-see-ums) through 70 launderings.

"The technology holds the promise of a safe, simple, and effective way to protect people from ticks and other insects," Meshnick said. "If further studies show similar results, the apparel could be used by people who are often outdoors for work or recreation or both. I can envision many uses around the world, including in developing countries to prevent malaria spread by mosquitoes."

Outdoor workers are often at great risk for tick-borne diseases.

Meagan VaughnUNC epidemiology doctoral student Meagan Vaughn conducted the pilot study from March through October 2009 with a group of outdoor workers from the North Carolina Division of Water Quality (NCDWQ). Sixteen employees from the NCDWQ Wetlands and Permitting Unit were selected because of the high number of work-related tick bites they reported in previous years. Nine of those employees wore Insect Shield clothing, while six formed a control group, wearing ordinary clothes and continuing their usual efforts to repel ticks, including use of spray repellents.

Results showed that the group wearing Insect Shield treated clothing experienced 99 percent fewer tick attachments during work hours and 93 percent fewer tick attachments overall than their control group counterparts.

On the basis of the strong results of the pilot study, researchers from UNC and North Carolina State University were awarded a four-year, $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.'

The researchers now have enrolled more than 100 outdoor workers in the state's divisions of forestry and of parks and recreation. These workers randomly are assigned to wear treated or untreated uniforms for two tick seasons, during which time neither participants nor investigators will know who is wearing which type of uniform. All will be carefully monitored for tick bites and tick-borne illnesses.

"Insect Shield is proud to partner with the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health on these important research projects," says Richard Lane, company president. We expect that the large study will confirm the pilot study and prove that these treatments can prevent serious tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever."

University of North Carolina


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