Mosquitoes are a serious health problem (and genuine pain) around the world. Not only can bites result in painful, itchy marks, their presence can be the harbinger for outbreaks of diseases like malaria and West Nile. The health effects are a persistent and problematic challenge for health officials, both in the US and in third world countries.
Kids can be particularly susceptible to mosquito-borne diseases, so it’s also a time-sensitive problem. In fact, malaria kills one child every minute of the day and there were an estimated 660, 000 total deaths attributed to the disease in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.
Unfortunately, there are limited solutions to the problem. Bug sprays can be expensive, loaded with toxic chemicals and occasionally inaccessable. Citronella candles don’t always work—and there is the question of access—and other options can be price or location-prohibitive.
The Kite Mosquito Patch is a 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch sticker that researchers hope will take the place of bug sprays and lotions and reduce (or eliminate) bites for up to 48 hours.
The patch, designed by Grey Frandsen, Michelle Brown and Torrey Tayanaka of Olfactor Laboratories, works on the principle that mosquitoes track people via carbon dioxide. It’s a combination of compounds that disrupts the bug’s carbon dioxide neurons, and also depresses their ability to detect skin odors--that's the bug's second method of detection. Though designed by Frandsen, Brown, and Tayanaka, the technology was based on research by Professor Anandasankar Ray with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
[Editor's Note: In the interest of full disclosure, lest I seem overly excited, I am incredibly sensitive to bug bites. Any bites I receive immediately swell to three to four times what a normal person experiences. So you see how I might be personally
vested in finding a solution better than hovering around the citronella or bathing in DEET.]
Every compound in the patch is non-toxic and approved by the U.S. FDA. Because it was designed with kids in mind, the Kite can be used by anyone of any age including infants (though it’s recommended the patch be placed near and not on the infant) and pregnant women. The small, colorful patch is designed to be applied to clothing (not directly on the skin) and acts similar to a regular sticker.
Currently, the Kite team is working with Pilgrim Africa to deploy the first kits to Uganda, a region hard hit by mosquito-borne diseases, by using Indiegogo as a crowd funding source. The Uganda shipment—about six months after the campaign ends--will serve as a field test for the patch.
In the future, the team is planning on exploring the use of the patch on animals. Because the technology scrambles the ability of the mosquito to detect carbon dioxide—which animals emit—it might be possible to use the patch on family pets, farm animals, or a myriad of other options. They’ll also explore how effective the Kite is against other insects including black flies, horse flies and biting midges.