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Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 4595823, 17 pages
Review Article

Terpenes: Natural Products for Controlling Insects of Importance to Human Health—A Structure-Activity Relationship Study

Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal (IMBiV-CONICET), Cátedra de Química Orgánica, Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (FCEFyN), Avenida Vélez Sarsfield 1611, X5016GCA Córdoba, Argentina

Received 27 April 2016; Revised 17 August 2016; Accepted 21 August 2016

Academic Editor: Zeljko Tomanovic

Copyright © 2016 José S. Dambolena et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Many insects affect food production and human health, and in an attempt to control these insects the use of synthetic insecticides has become widespread. However, this has resulted in the development of resistance in these organisms, human diseases, contamination of food, and pollution of the environment. Plants natural products and essential oil components such as terpenes and phenylpropenes have been shown to have a significant potential for insect control. However, the molecular properties related to their insecticidal activity are not well understood. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the toxicity of terpene compounds against three insects of importance to human health: lice, cockroaches, and Triatominae bugs and to evaluate which molecular descriptors are important in the bioactivity of terpenes. For the insects studied, quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) studies were performed in order to predict the insecticidal activity of terpene compounds. The obtained QSAR models indicated that the activity of these compounds depends on their ability to reach the targets and to interact with them. The QSAR analysis can be used to predict the bioactivities of other structurally related molecules. Our findings may provide an important contribution in the search for new compounds with insecticidal activity.