Brightly colored little patches that stick on clothing or backpacks could represent an effective new way to fight mosquitoes and the deadly illnesses they spread. A California-based startup is close to getting the patches produced and distributed in areas where they're needed the most.
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Current mosquito repellents can be cumbersome, expensive, limited and in some cases even toxic. Bed nets can only do so much and nobody enjoys getting sprayed with who-knows-what just to keep the bugs away for a brief spell. A company in Riverside, California called Kite thinks it has the answer in the form of a 1.5-inch square patch that goes on clothing, backpacks, baby carriers and other items to make the wearer invisible to mosquitoes.
The company reports that its patch can protect the wearer for up to 48 hours. Usually I'd be highly skeptical of any company making such a claim but Kite appears to have solid credentials. They're using technology developed by entomologist Anandasankar Ray at the University of California, Riverside, and they're supported by grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Although the formula that Kite uses in its patches is patent-pending and proprietary, the company does say that its scientists developed the formula from food-grade, FDA-approved compounds and International Fragrance Association-approved fragrances that "specifically target the mosquitoes' receptor neurons used to detect carbon dioxide."
The carbon dioxide part is crucial because that's how mosquitoes can find us, suck our blood, and spread deadly diseases. "For more than half of the world's population, primarily in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, effective mosquito control means the difference between life and death," Kite co-founder Torrey Tayenaka said in a video about the patch.
Malaria-Proof Mosquito Created
So far Kite's ingredients appear to be working in the lab. Next, the company wants to do a six-month pilot program in malaria-stricken parts of Uganda. After that they're aiming for EPA approval on the compounds so they can begin producing enough patches for global distribution. While they initially set out to raise $75,000 through Indiegogo.com, Kite has raised more than $268,000 so far and still has 35 days left in their campaign.
Mosquito-repellent patches are desperately needed in foreign countries, but mosquito-borne illness is no joke in parts of North America, either. Cases of West Nile Virus are rising again in the U.S., according to the CDC. When it comes down to it, I'd rather go for an effective little sticky patch than a strange chemical cloud.
Photo: The Kite Mosquito Patch goes on clothing and backpacks to hide the wearer from mosquitoes. Credit: Kite