Why the world needs more insect repellent clothing
Many of us believe they should fear sharks, lions, and crocodiles. The most dangerous animal in the world, however, is also one of the smallest: the mosquito. Not because of the size of their teeth (the mosquito has not got any), but because of the deadly diseases they transmit. Zika, Malaria, and Yellow fever are all passed on to humans by mosquitos, and kill more than a million people a year. As opposed to sharks, lions, and crocodiles, they are very difficult to run away from. So instead of running, we better get them to dislike us.
Why are there still mosquito-borne diseases?
First things first. Why are there still so many mosquito-borne diseases in the world? There are several reasons why mankind has not been able to eradicate them just yet. Malaria, for example, comes in four different species that all respond to medicines in their own way. And as Malaria infected people do not automatically develop immunity, the disease may hit the same person several times. This has everything to do with the fact that mosquito-borne diseases tend to evolve over time. Therefore, vaccination is often ineffective, as it fights the wrong ‘version’ of the disease. In the case of yellow fever, vaccination is effective but only protects us for ten years. So, no matter how you put it; mosquito-borne diseases are an eternal headache.
Would vaccination do the trick?
Despite the many studies, new vaccines, and new medicines, mosquito-borne diseases are not expected to disappear any time soon. Imagine there was an effective vaccine for all mosquito-borne diseases in the world. Who would pay for them? Many of the mosquito-borne diseases occur in countries in tropical areas; countries that cannot afford to pay for all the vaccines themselves. And even if they could, how would they make sure every single citizen got vaccinated? Due to globalisation, people more and more travel to foreign countries, transmitting diseases that can hit other parts of the world. This happened with Zika, a mosquito-borne disease that occurred in Brasilia but has now spread throughout the Americas and Europe.
Insect repellent clothing
As long as mosquito-borne diseases keep on claiming victims, people will search for new remedies. Vaccines and medicines are either not effective or too expensive, and catching every single mosquito that carries Malaria, Zika, Yellow fever, West Nile virus (and so on) is simply impossible. This is why we should search for ways to deter mosquitos long before they get the chance to sting. If we invented insect repellent clothing that would keep the mosquitos away, there would be no disease to cure. Less people would get infected, and less people would die. This would give researchers more time to work on effective vaccines, that could eventually exterminate the mosquito-borne diseases altogether.
The good news is, such a product already exists. In the 1970s, researchers discovered permethrin, a biocide that attacks the nerve system of insects. As they instinctively know it will kill them, insects do not go anywhere near permethrin. It is safe to warm blooded creatures, meaning we can use it to create many different types of insect repellent clothing. Armed forces all around the world, for example, use it on their soldier’s uniforms. The permethrin protects them against mosquitos, but also repels ticks, that cause Lyme disease in many European countries. As it is a biocide, permethrin is strictly regulated by, among others, the European government. So, before you start using it in your textiles, make sure you know the rules. If you do it right, though, permethrin will be the most powerful weapon against mosquito-borne diseases you have ever had.
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