The British Army has confirmed it has provided troops with Citriodiol spray to help protect troops against coronavirus.
Medically reviewed by Dr Louise Wiseman MBBS, BSc (Hons), DRCOG, MRCGP and words by Jessica Rapana
The Citriodiol-based spray has been given to each of the 10 Joint Military Commands, which have been delegated the authority to provide to their personnel wherever required, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed in a letter to Select Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood, according to The Telegraph.
Why is the British Army using insect repellent?
“Weaker Citriodiol spray solutions form a barrier on the skin and have been found to provide a barrier against variants of the SARS virus similar to that causing the current pandemic,” the Defence Secretary said.
He added: “The MoD does not implement such measures without rigorous examination of their effectiveness and suitability.
The Surgeon General advised that Citriodiol would do no harm and should be used on a precautionary basis.
“Following consultation with subject matter experts, including infectious disease consultants, pathology advisers, and public health experts, the Surgeon General advised that, albeit in lieu of conclusive research, Citriodiol would do no harm and should be used on a precautionary basis, as an additional layer of protection against exposure to COVID-19.”
The Defence Secretary added that the Surgeon General had also tasked the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DTSL) with a further study “to understand the specific details of the utility of Citriodiol against COVID-19”.
What is Citriodiol?
Citriodiol is made from oil from the leaves of the eucalyptus citriodora tree. The ingredient is found in some insect repellents, such as mosi-guard and Citriodiol spray.
It is believed that only insect repellents containing Citriodiol, and not those containing deet, may protect against some viruses, including potentially the novel coronavirus. The product dissolves over time and is usually used to add a layer of protection to skin to prevent insect bites.
Can Citriodiol protect against coronavirus?
Citriodiol is known to have some antiviral properties and was previously used to prevent SARS 1, another strain of coronavirus that caused the 2003 epidemic, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson previously told Sky News.
However, research is still ongoing as to whether it can be used to prevent COVID-19. The MoD added “further work is required to determine its full effectiveness, acquisition and distribution”.
Further work is required to determine its full effectiveness, acquisition and distribution.
Citrodiol, and insect repellents generally, do not form part of the advice from Public Health England or the World Health Organisation for protecting against COVID-19 infection.
The company that makes Citriodiol has also called on the government to formally test whether the product could offer protection against the novel coronavirus.
What a doctor thinks
Dr Louise Wiseman, a former GP and medical writer, said, “We do not yet know how efficacious the Citriodiol is against COVID-19, even though there was study of its action against SARS 1 (another strain of coronavirus) and it has been hypothesised that it may have antiviral or antibacterial properties in previous studies.’
Social distancing and hand hygiene remain paramount as does following local governmental guidelines.
Dr Wiseman added, “It must also be considered that it contains other chemicals in the insect repellent formulations and under no circumstances should any of these products or ingredients be ingested.
“It will be interesting to see the results of the Army trial of this spray repellent, as it would seem this is being done experimentally as a ‘good guess’ scenario to see if the Citriodiol will help reduce spread of corona but this trial does not suggest the public should act upon it in any way. Social distancing and hand hygiene remain paramount as does following local governmental guidelines.”
Where can I buy Citriodiol?