Mosquito bites are not only annoying, but also cause dangerous diseases. Auburn University has come up with a solution – a unique weave of fabric that, thanks to its geometric structure, blocks insect bites. Scientists expect that on the basis of this pattern it will be possible to produce almost any clothing, including for children.
This fabric protects against mosquito bites – and is suitable even for the tropicsDaria Sidorova
Mosquitoes carry diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile fever. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world die every year because of their bites, especially children under the age of five in developing countries. Millions of other people recover but spend days or weeks on sick leave. And bites that do not entail illness are just annoying.
John Beckmann, assistant professor of entomology and plant pathology at Auburn University, wanted to find a new approach to fighting mosquito bites.
Ordinary long-sleeve clothing does not protect against them. The researchers tested existing fabrics and found that even tight knitting does not save. In woven fabric, the gaps between the fibers are even larger, and insects can easily bite through it.
Photo in text: Auburn University
Mosquitoes pierce the skin with a needle-like proboscis that is longer than the thickness of most tissues. In the preprint, the researchers describe its anatomy: a tuft of “six serrated blades and microneedles” capable of 90° bending, and adjoining stilettos that “saw” the skin by vibrating like tiny drills.
The team experimented with different weave options until they found one that didn’t miss a bite. When stretched and folded, such fabric also does not create holes that allow the insect to reach the skin.
The next challenge was to provide comfort. Dense fabrics are not suitable for tropical climates, where mosquito-borne diseases are most common. After numerous refinements, the result was a fabric that some graduate students compared to leggings from the Lululemon brand. The pattern can be used with a variety of materials, but for now the team is working with a mix of spandex and polyester.
Over the next year, scientists plan to work on the density of the fabric, and then introduce a clothing line. Beckmann also hopes that clothing manufacturers will begin to license the pattern — in theory, it will fit almost any piece of clothing.
For example, for children’s overalls, which will come in handy in countries where small children often die from malaria. It will not be much more expensive to produce such fabrics than traditional ones.
Compared to other methods of vector-borne disease control, “it would be a low-cost solution,” says Beckmann. Over-bed mosquito nets are also useful, but only when a person is under them. Governments can use insecticides to kill pests, but this is not enough.
Beckmann has also explored ways to sterilize or genetically modify mosquitoes, but this is a complex process that requires government oversight and massive efforts. “I think people and especially researchers overcomplicate the problem and develop the most complex solutions. he says. “I sincerely believe that the best solution is probably the simplest.”
Cover photo: Solodovnik /
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