The UK’s Ministry of Defence is conducting tests into whether an insect repellent can kill Covid-19, but questions are being raised about the scientific and ethical basis of the research.
The active ingredient found in many brands of insect repellent, citriodiol, is known to kill other types of coronaviruses, so scientists at Britain’s defense laboratory at Porton Down are examining if it can combat the latest one, which causes Covid-19.
It comes after some British soldiers were issued with insect repellent last week. Use of the repellent is said to be optional and soldiers working as part of the UK’s efforts to tackle the virus are using it in conjunction with handwashing, social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment.
The development has raised some eyebrows in the UK parliament, with two opposition MPs separately writing to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace seeking further information.
This move by @DefenceHQ is welcome, but it raises more questions than it answers. Why wasn’t this product tested before it was issued, did it involve the MoD ethics committee and who, ultimately, signed this off? https://t.co/UO5xlO8cWP
The Scottish National Party’s Stewart McDonald took to Twitter to raise his concerns. “This move by @DefenceHQ is welcome, but it raises more questions than it answers,” he wrote.
Why wasn’t this product tested before it was issued, did it involve the MoD ethics committee and who, ultimately, signed this off?
McDonald also reportedly asked to see the evidence the defense ministry based its conclusions on before deciding to use insect repellents on troops.
“If this is based on science, it is vital that the evidence is made public and all frontline workers are given the same advice,” he wrote to officials, according to Newsweek.
“If there is no evidence that it will be effective, then the MoD must explain why this product is being issued, creating a false sense of security and putting lives at risk. Clarity on this matter is of the greatest urgency,” he added.
The Ministry of Defence said that citriodiol is known to have anti-viral properties and has been used as a barrier against the Sars-1 virus. However, further work is required to determine its full effectiveness against Covid-19.
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