Thursday, 25 July 2013

Become invisible to mosquitoes

A mosquito can detect the carbon
dioxide emanating from a prospective
meal from hundreds of feet away.
The Kite Patch, a small, non-toxic
sticker that you place on your
clothing, can jam a mosquito's CO 2
radar. Wear one, the patch's creators
say, and you'll be effectively invisible
to the bloodsuckers for up to 48
hours.
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The Kite Patch was developed by
Grey Frandsen, Michelle Brown and
Torrey Tayanaka of Olfactor
Laboratories and, according to the
FAQ page at the patch's website, is
based on the findings of researcher
Anandasankar Ray and his colleagues
at University of California Riverside.
If we had to guess, we'd say the FAQ
are referring to this study
, published by Ray and his team in a
June 2011 issue of Nature, in which
the researchers identify three groups
of chemicals that can which disrupt a
mosquito's carbon dioxide receptors.
We wrote about the discovery at the
time, and here's the upshot:
Each group of chemicals works
a little differently to confound
its target. The first actually
mimics carbon dioxide, and
could be used to lure
mosquitoes away from their
human targets and into insect
traps; the second prevents the
mosquitoes from detecting
carbon dioxide altogether; and
the third actually switches the
CO2-sensing machinery of the
mosquitoes into overdrive,
overloading the mosquitoes'
senses to the point of
confusion.
In a project currently seeking funding
on indiegogo , the team hopes to field
test the patch in Uganda, "one of the
toughest proving grounds there is":
With your help, large-scale
testing in Uganda will
simultaneously provide over
1,000,000 hours of protection
during a large field test for
families who are suffering from
malaria infection rates of over
60% and allow us to optimize
Kite before we begin scaling for
global distribution.
The results will help us finalize
the formulation and any last
product design changes. Once
the formulation is finalized we
can begin the EPA registration
process for the US. Once we
have approval in the US, we will
be capable of scaling the
product for widespread and
market-sensitive distribution –
especially for those where
mosquitoes mean life or death.
The Kite Patch is what's known in
epidemiological circles as as spatial
repellant. In a review published last
year in Malaria Journal
, researchers note that spatial
repellants have shown a lot of
promise in the fight against disease-
transmission by vectors like
mosquitoes, but have yet to be
incorporated into multi-lateral
disease control programs. One
reason for this is a lack of
epidemiological data supporting their
efficacy:
There is a critical need for
Phase III community trials
integrating simultaneous
monitoring of infection
incidence with vector population
metrics... Such confirmatory
studies will require
unambiguous entomological
measures of repellency versus
irritancy and/or knock down
effects in reducing vector entry
into a given interior space or
outside area, as well as
reductions in vector biting
densities (to include potential
redirection to untreated spaces
with human hosts) concurrent
with reduced pathogen
transmission. The challenge
arises when designing an impact
study to ensure both
entomological and
parasitological endpoints
correlate with true repellency
effects.
How rigorous the Kite Patch's fields
tests will actually be remains to be
seen, but a project like this has the
potential to provide tons of data,
while helping the people who need it
most. Fingers crossed for progress,
everybody.

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