Introduction: Mosquito-borne diseases are a serious global problem, particularly in tropical and sub-tropical countries such as Nepal. Citronella oil is a natural mosquito repellent as well as a local fragrance in Nepal, which is accessible at very low cost because citronella plants are widely cultivated in rural areas of the Terai belt in Nepal. This study was conducted using a real-life randomized controlled pilot trial to confirm the effectiveness and applicability of locally-produced citronella oil as a mosquito repellent for the prevention of mosquito-borne diseases in Nepal.
Methods: A repellency activity test was performed with 100% citronella oil (Cymbopogon winteratus) from April to May 2013 in the Tikapur Municipality of the Kailali district, Nepal. The test was divided into two trials: an indoor exposure (IE) test (N=101) and an outdoor exposure (OE) test (N=140) from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm. Each trial contained an experimental citronella oil-applied group and a non-applied (control) group. The outcome measures were the protective effect of citronella oil against mosquitoes, the number of mosquito bites, the repellency percentage, the smell satisfaction and the irritation level.
Results: Experimental group had a significant protective effect against mosquito bites in IE (96.5%, n=57) and OE (95.7%, n=70) tests compared to the control group in IE (29.5%, n=44) and OE (28.6%, n=70) tests (experimental vs control groups, p<0.001). The repellency percentage for the OE test was 96.7%. In the smell satisfaction test (n=127), most of the participants responded with high satisfaction: 'good' (67.7%), 'very good' (16.5%), 'bad' (13.4%) and 'very bad' (2.4%). IE and OE tests showed similar satisfaction levels in each category. In the irritation level test (n=127), 87.4% and 12.6% responded with no irritation and slight irritation, respectively. There were no reports of moderate or severe irritation.
Conclusions: The topical application of citronella oil can be employed as an easily-available, affordable and effective alternative mosquito repellent to prevent mosquito-borne diseases in rural areas such as Tikapur, Nepal.
Keywords: Asia; Community-Controlled Health Services; Complementary Medicine; Evidence-based Care; Health Scientist; Health Service reform; Primary Health Care; Public Health.