A Cornell University scientist and designer have created a hooded bodysuit embedded at the molecular level with insecticides for warding off mosquitoes infected with malaria.
While insecticide-treated nets are commonly used to drive away mosquitoes, the Cornell prototype garment can be worn throughout the day to provide extra protection and does not dissipate easily like skin-based repellents.
By binding insecticide and fabric at the nanolevel using metal organic framework molecules — which are clustered crystalline compounds — the mesh fabric can reportedly be loaded with up to three times more insecticide than normal fibrous nets, which usually wear off after about six months.
In a statement, Frederick Ochanda, postdoctoral associate in Cornell’s Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design, said: ‘The bond on our fabric is very difficult to break. The nets in use now are dipped in a solution and are not bonded in this way, so their effectiveness doesn’t last very long.’
The garment, fashioned by Matilda Ceesay, a Cornell apparel design undergraduate, debuted on the runway at the Cornell Fashion Collective spring fashion show on 28 April on the Cornell campus.
It is said to consist of an underlying one-piece bodysuit and a mesh hood and cape containing the insecticide.
It is hoped that the outfit will serve as a prototype to drive new technologies for fighting the spread of malaria, a disease that in Africa alone is estimated to kill 655,000 people annually.
On the horizon, according to Ochanda, is a fabric that releases repellent in response to changes in temperature or light — offering wearers more protection at night. At minimum, they hope the technology can be applied to create longer-lasting insecticide-laden bed nets.