A new mosquito-beating patch is being developed in California that, if successfully rolled out in Africa, could help prevent illnesses such as malaria, West Nile virus and dengue fever.
The Kite patch adheres to clothing, much like a sticker, and uses FDA-approved, non-toxic compounds that block a mosquito's ability to track humans for 48 hours.
The sticker was created by a team based in Riverside, CA, after 7 years of research and development by Olfactor Laboratories, Inc. and the University of California, Riverside.
The company behind the patch, ieCrowd, employed designers to make it withstand tough conditions. The product website for the sticker claims it is "perfectly suited for children in Uganda, professional athletes, families on the soccer field, outdoor enthusiasts, and workers in the suburbs of Manila."
Since mosquitos track humans through carbon dioxide release, the company notes that the Kite should work on all types of mosquitos, citing preliminary field trials that show the patch's effectiveness on many different species of mosquitos.
Though the patch should not replace mosquito nets at night in high-risk areas, the patch is being promoted as a replacement for sprays or lotions currently on the market.
Malaria is a global problem
Humans become infected with malaria when a mosquito carrying the parasite transfers it to the bloodstream through a bite in the skin.
The Kite adheres to clothing like a sticker. For up to 48 hours it can block mosquitos' ability to track humans via carbon dioxide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 219 million people had malaria in 2010 and 660,000 of these people died. Africa was hit the hardest, with 91% of all malaria deaths happening on that continent.
In the US, there are around 1,500 cases of malaria each year, most of which involve people who have traveled to Africa and South Asia.
Symptoms of malaria infection include fever, chills and flu-like illness. If left untreated, sufferers of malaria can eventually die from complications.
The direct costs of malaria - those relating to illness, treatment and premature death - are around $12 billion each year, according to the makers of the Kite. The company claims that costs relating to lost economic growth "are many times more."
Prevention is key for mosquito-borne illnesses
While malaria kills a large number of people each year, it is easily preventable. We know where it comes from (mosquitoes) and we know how to avoid these insects (using nets and repellants).
Grey Frandsen, the project lead and chief marketing officer at ieCrowd, is a surviver of malaria himself. He says:
"We want this small patch to change people's lives. We're designing Kite to deliver everyone protection from mosquitoes, no matter where they are in the world.
It will provide a new level of protection for children in Uganda, for young families in South Africa, and hikers in Seattle or Wyoming or Florida seeking a safer, socially-responsible solution.
We built Kite to be simple and affordable - a small colorful sticker that will appeal to children and adults and survive the rigors of extreme climates, play time, or outdoor recreation."
The company recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to help their first roll out of the potentially life-saving product in Uganda. They will continue to test the patch there, where communities have the highest need for a solution.
A recent study showed that malaria-carrying mosquitos are more strongly attracted to the smell of humans, which is why a patch that blocks their ability to find us in the first place could be an effective weapon against malaria.