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Meredith College Student Studies Mosquito Repellent Effects of Neem Tree

Most college students are used to dealing with mosquitoes during summer break. It’s nearly impossible to fully escape the pests when enjoying outdoor activities.

Jacqueline-BaileyHowever, Jacqueline Bailey of Meredith College has decided to intentionally surround herself with mosquitoes this summer with the hope of proving that nature lovers don’t need to settle for chemical repellents to protect themselves when outdoors. The alternative, Bailey believes, is the natural oil produced by the neem tree grown in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania.

Thanks to receiving a $5,000 research fellowship grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the biology major will be working alongside Meredith College professor of biological sciences Larry Grimes and JustNeem LLC, CEO Peter Radtke.

JustNeem is a body care company based in Cary, N.C., that specializes in various neem-related products. Although neem oil is widely recognized as having insect repellent qualities, JustNeem’s Adios Outdoor Body Spray has yet to be approved by the EPA as an acceptable repellent, something Bailey hopes to change in the near future through her research.

 “It’s already being sold but it’s not allowed to be called a mosquito or bug repellent without the EPA’s approval,” said Bailey. “We’re hoping that through all of our testing, neem’s properties will prove how reliable it is and the results will show the EPA that it meets the requirements for being called a mosquito repellent.”

Bailey is currently in the process of breeding several different species of mosquitoes to test neem’s overall repellent qualities. By changing concentration levels and creating different combinations of oils and other plants, she is confident that consumers will begin to see the natural bug repellent on store shelves before long.

 “There is a lot of hype about DEET and some of the outcomes showing up from its long-term use,” Bailey said. “There are other natural repellents out there but they don’t last as long. This is a plant that is comparable to DEET but is naturally occurring and is nontoxic to mammals and humans. We think we have something here that will last up to eight hours.”

Controlling mosquitoes is constantly a topic of medical debate as mosquitoes carry diseases such as yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile virus and malaria. Bailey will also be studying neem’s effectiveness at battling other nuisance insects such as ticks and chiggers, which can also transport illnesses.

Sahara Desert of MauritaniaBailey decided to partner with JustNeem for several reasons, including that the company shows a clear interest in helping the country that supplies their key ingredient. Ten percent of all sales are reinvested in the neem orchards to ensure it is a sustainable resource for the impoverished nation.

Bailey is the first Meredith College student to receive the fellowship grant and she hopes to translate the resources into results that will be felt in the U.S. and Mauritania.

“The more people that use the product will also mean that more people will learn about the country and what’s going on there,” said Bailey, who is also an International Studies minor.

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