A Kenyan scientist and a Gambian clothes designer have joined forces to fashion a garment that has the power to repel mosquitoes and beat malaria.
The one-piece multi-coloured bodysuit comes with an anti-mosquito mesh hood and a cape that contains mosquito repellent that has been bonded with the fabric’s fibres at the molecular level.
Because the repellent is embedded in the garment’s fabric using nanotechnology it does not dissipate like regular skin-based insecticides, according to the scientist and clothes designer from Cornell University in New York.
The ‘binding technology’ even allows up to three times more insecticide to be embedded within the fabric compared to normal sleeping nets, which are only dipped in solution and usually need to be replaced or re-dipped every six months.
Malaria, which is endemic in large parts of Africa, is a killer parasitic disease transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. It kills more than half a million people every year. In Africa, a child dies from malaria every minute.
The creators of the hooded bodysuit, Frederick Ochanda and Matilda Ceesay, have both witnessed family members fall ill with malaria. They hope that their innovative design will instigate further technological advances in the battle against Malaria.
Scientists are already working on a fabric that can potentially detect changes in temperature or light and so can secrete the amount of repellent needed accordingly. This would, for example, provide more protection at night when most mosquitoes prefer to feed.
At the very least, Ochanda and Ceesay hope that the technology can be used to craft stronger, longer lasting and more effective insecticide-treated bed nets.
“Although there are already mosquito nets being used, the solution isn’t foolproof,” Ceesay said, speaking at Cornell University.
“People are still getting sick and dying. We can’t get complacent. I hope my design can show what is possible when you bring together fashion and science and will inspire others to keep improving the technology.”