Researchers Warn Against Use of DEET Due To Potential Risks on Reproduction

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DEET, the most widely used active ingredient in insect repellents, may pose serious human reproduction risks. Scientists have linked the chemical to issues, such as infertility, birth defects, and miscarriages.

Harvard Medical School researchers investigated the impact of DEET on C. elegans worms, a model organism for studying environmental toxin effects on human reproduction. The study revealed that DEET negatively affects meiosis, the cell division process responsible for producing eggs and sperm in these worms.

Compound used in insect repellants could affect fertility

Researchers found that comparable DEET levels in human blood may pose risks such as infertility, stillbirths, miscarriages, and genetic disorders like Down syndrome. However, they stress the need for additional research before discouraging the use of DEET-containing products, given its effectiveness in preventing insect-borne diseases.

N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), a key component in widely used insect repellents, plays a vital role in safeguarding against diseases carried by insects, including malaria, West Nile virus, Zika virus, and Lyme disease.

The Harvard Medical School research team conducted a study on the effects of DEET on C. elegans worms’ meiosis. They discovered that DEET significantly changed gene expression in the worms, causing abnormal chromosome structure and oxidative stress. This interference led to difficulties in proper chromosome separation during cell division, resulting in less healthy egg cells and worm embryos.

Widespread use of DEET fertility concern

 Dr. Monica Colaiácovo, a senior author and genetics professor, emphasized the significance of studying DEET’s impact due to its widespread presence in the environment and potential effects on meiosis. She stated that DEET emerged as a significant concern due to its adverse effects on chromosome separation, leading to abnormal chromosome numbers in eggs. In humans, this anomaly can result in infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and conditions such as Down syndrome.

The study explores the potential neurologic effects of DEET products on individuals and focuses on their impact on meiosis. Previous research has indicated concerns about DEET’s influence on human reproduction, considering its widespread use. The investigation aims to shed light on whether DEET poses a problem in the context of meiosis, addressing a gap in existing human studies.

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