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Treating Clothes With Permethrin Could Keep Ticks At Bay, CDC Says

May 25, 2018 07:36 PM EDT
Tick protection just got official. CDC researchers confirm permethrin's effectiveness on a new study that tested the chemical's capabilities in immobilizing three species of disease-carrying ticks.
(Photo : Pixabay)

Scientists say people in tick-infested areas can keep the bugs off them during Lyme disease season by splashing some permethrin on their clothes.

While permethrin has long been in the market as an insecticide, the new research paper proved it could be an effective chemical against different types of ticks.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention led the study, which was published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

"Ultimately, we'd like to be able to provide more specific guidance about the use of permethrin-treated clothing, including what types of clothing provide the best protection," senior study author Lars Eisen, Ph.D., research entomologist at the CDC, says in a statement. "Additional research in this area can improve public health recommendations."


According to Gizmodo, the chemical has been received particularly well because it is harmless to the human skin. Companies are already selling clothing doused with permethrin while others offer services to treat consumers' own clothing with it.

Also, permethrin sprays are available for purchase, so anyone can do it themselves.

New Findings On Ticks

Previous CDC studies on permethrin focused on how it affected the infamous black-legged tick, which is known to be the main vector of the deadly Lyme disease.

For this new research, Eisen and his colleagues tested permethrin on the black-legged tick, lone star tick, as well as American dog tick, which carry other diseases such as southern tick-associated rash illness and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Both nymph and adult ticks were included in the tests with the former believed to be a much more lethal carrier of diseases.

"All tested tick species and life stages experienced irritation — the 'hot-foot' effect — after coming into contact with permethrin-treated clothing," Eisen says, adding that the ticks dropped from the textile during their experiments.

"We also found that sustained contact with permethrin-treated clothing — up to 5 minutes — resulted in loss of normal movement for all examined tick species and life stages, leaving them unable to bite."

While the chemical proved to be effective in disturbing all the ticks, the levels varied. It had the most potent effect on the black-legged tick nymphs with 100 percent getting knocked out an hour after a minute-long exposure to permethrin-doused clothing. Following behind is the lone star tick nymphs, then black-legged tick adult females, American dog tick adult females, and lone star tick adult females.

However, after five minutes of exposure to the clothing, all of the ticks eventually lost their capability of regular movement.

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