If you were asked what you disliked the most about summer, how would you respond? Sweat-inducing temperatures? Summer homework? How about mosquito bites?
Findings from a new scientific discovery suggest that we may no longer have to worry about those pesky bugs. Scientists have engineered a new material known as “The Kite Patch.” Made of compounds from our skin, the patch is supposed to render humans “invisible” to mosquitoes. If mosquitoes can’t see you, they can’t bite you!
The Kite Patch
Current mosquito repellants are just that: repellants. They have an odor that bothers mosquitos. However, scientists have noticed that as mosquitoes become more exposed to certain repellents, they get used to the odor. Therefore, after multiple uses, the repellent ceases to be effective enough to prevent bites.
Mosquitoes use the smell of skin and the presence of carbon dioxide to sense where their next meal will be. The Kite Patch uses a different compound that—rather than producing a smell malodorous to mosquitoes—masks the carbon dioxide and skin odors that are naturally emitted by humans.
After a long experimental phase, scientists at the California-based company Olfactor Laboratories, Inc. (OLI) found that a compound that we naturally emit in small amounts is able to make us invisible to mosquitoes. The Kite Patch integrates this compound into a small square sticker. Placing one sticker on your body should prevent mosquitoes from biting you for up to two days!
One benefit of the Kite Patch is obvious: no more bites! The days of itchy red welts speckled throughout our bodies will soon be a part of history. For many of us lucky to live in prospering nations, mosquitoes are only itchy nuisances.
However, in many African countries, mosquitoes also carry deadly diseases. One of the most well known mosquito-carried diseases is malaria; in fact, World Health Organization reports show that of the 219 million people affected by malaria in 2010, about 660,000 people died. For people living in these countries, the Kite Patch can not only save them from constant itching, but also save their lives.
In January 2014, the OLI is planning to begin testing the Kite Patch in Uganda, where malaria is a rampant problem. The purpose of the field test is two-fold: the patches can help people who are in danger of contracting the disease, and the results can help the company optimize its product. The patch is not sold in the United States yet, but if the field tests go well, the product may soon be on our shelves.