Malaria is still the biggest killer disease around the world with almost 700.000 deaths according to 2010 WHO estimates. More than 90 percent of these deaths are in sub saharan Africa.
With no effective vaccine, the survival rate depends on the speed with which victims get hospital treatment which is often not available in most rural parts of Africa.
Researchers from Olfactor Laboratories, Inc. and the University of California Riverside in the USA have come up with a revolutionary solution that could significant reduce malaria mortality rates. The Kite Mosquito patch contains non-toxic compounds that are suitable for use by anyone-children professional athletes, families on a picnic, outdoor enthusiasts and workers in the suburbs of Manila.
The patch provides everyday protection from mosquito bites that mosquito nets cannot offer.
Grey Frandsen is the chief marketing officer of iecrowd, the company behind the development of the patch. The company is now seeking funding to field test the device in Uganda.
He has been speaking to Francis Ngwa about the Kite Patch and its potential.
Q What is the kite patch all about?
Our team has been focused for over three years on finding a new solution to mosquito borne diseases and to protect humans from mosquitoes. We have been working on technology that was initially funded by the Gates Foundation and the National Institute for Health in the USA. The technology blocks a mosquitoes’ ability to detect humans. We have put that technology into what we are calling a kite patch. We are now working on a crowd funding indiegogo campaign to take it for the first field test in Uganda. Apart from fighting against malaria, the patch could also prevent the west nile virus and dengue fever
Q This is not the first time a malaria patch is appearing on the market. What makes yours different?
Our patch is the very first that contains the world wide discovery of compounds that blocks a mosquitos ability to trace carbondioxide that our bodies release and which is how mosquitos locate and bites people.
We are the very first company putting this material in a small colourful patch that will emanate around a human for up to forty eight hours and have this blocking impact on mosquitoes. I am not suggesting that any other products are not useful but we anticipate that the kite patch, once we get it to a global market, will be able to supplement bed nets and will also become the primary method of repelling mosquitoes. The technology that we put into kite actually disables the mechanism mosquitoes have for sensing and tracking humans. What it does is it stops mosquitoes before they come into contact with people. The patch disables the mosquitoes’ short term, short range sensor which is attracted to body ordor.
Q What is in the invention that stops mosquitoes from biting people?
The compounds that we have developed over the past three years, which are safe and non toxic are what prevents mosquitoes from attacking humans.
When someone wears our kite patch, the goal is that mosquitoes will not know they are there so there will be no biting. We are therefore making humans invincible to mosquitoes.
Q Why did you choose Uganda to test the Kite patch?
I have had malaria in Uganda, I studied for sometime at the Makerere University. I got to play with the Rhino basketball team on the basketball courts just for fun. I therefore have a very soft spot for Uganda. But on top of that, there are regions in Uganda that are experiencing the highest number of infections especially among children under five. Our team wanted to take the Kite patch right to where it will matter the most.
Q You are an American where malaria does not exist, you travel to Uganda and get infected . Like a former patient yourself, how bad was your infection?
Thankfully, I did receive excellent medical care in Uganda and was fixed up relatively quickly. I had it twice but just having it once is a sufficient experience to suggest that it is one of the worst diseases that a person can contract primarily because it has a very devastating effect on your physical strenght and makes you feel exceptionally horrible. There is no instant cure for it, just a number of medicines that will help you beat the infection and hopefully, help one to recover. For a majority of people around the world though, mosquitoes are a nuissance. The problem is not only in Africa, we are now experiencing an increase in the rate of mosquito borne diseases in North America, South America and parts of Asia. Malaria is therefore an important disease we are trying to fight but there are a number of other diseases we are also focusing as well.
Q You said earlier the Kite patch only provides protection for two days?
Besides the fact that we are pushing for even more than that, there are two objectives for the kite patch; the first response is that bed nets have proven very successful rates in preventing malaria infections. However, they do not travel with a person. When people get up in the morning, they leave the protection that a bed nets offers and become open targets for mosquitoes. We want to extend the protection that people have through their normal daily life cycle. The second objective is to eliminate the need for the use of toxic chemicals still very widely used all over the world. We can do those two things and so extend peoples’ protection through their daily life cycles. People therefore can use the patch and can throw it away later but since it is non toxic, there is no poison danger of toxicity.
Q How wil the patch be used? Where does a person place it on their body?
Right now the Kite is a little less than two inches long by two inches wide. It is a very small colourful sticker. You remove a little cover and then you place it typically around the mid section (of the body) to maximize total protection to the upper and lower parts of the body.Because it is a sticker, you can place it on a backpack or on a baby carrying sway. You can take them any place you go and anytime. It is a very easy to use, very functional device. That means you don’t need to place it only on your body, you can place it anywhere near you. We have been having fantastic ideas about how they could use kite. The bottomline is, the active ingredient that will be released from kite means you just need to be in its proximity. If you are having a picnic or some kind of celebration, you can just place a number of them around the area while you can also stick it on your bed nets etc.
Q So there is a circumference or area that is covered by Kite?
Yes. The compounds in kite needs just a small amount of contact with the mosquitoes before they lose track . We envison a radius that will cover a significant area around the individual wearing it. We know that mosquitos can track Co2 emanating from a human or animal for up to a hundred metres. We are not saying that Kite can cover that distance but I am saying we can disrupt the mosquitoes’ navigation system before it ever gets to bite anybody protected by kite.
Q After forty eight hours, people need a new kite patch?
That is correct.
Q How much will the patch cost?
We don’t know yet. Literally, we are working 24/7 to optimize three things, the overall design to ensure that it is very effective no matter where it is used whether in Zimbabwe or in Chad. Two, we are continuing work on the science. Our science team consist of three groups of people who are all committed and are looking for the perfect blend of compounds that will make this very effective. Once we have put those two together, we will know which design to adopt and we will know we have developed just the perfect blend of compounds. Only then can we determine a price but we will make this affordable for everyone no matter where they might be. We know the patch will be used the most by those who can afford it the least, so our goal is to make the patch as widely available as possible for an appropriate cost.
Q How long will it take before the product gets on the market?
We are estimating that it will be available hopefully in the next 12 months. I will like to be talking to you this time next year after I have sent you a kite patch to test. We are doing the best to make sure it will be on the market in the next twelve months. When ever someone wears a kite patch, we want that to be a symbol of power and inspiration so that they can live a life free of mosquito borne diseases.
Q How excited are you by this discovery?
I can’t sleep, I literally can’t sleep bacause I am so excited. The question I keep asking is how can I make this a bit faster so I can get this out to the people who need it the most. We applaud the work that is being done by Malaria No More, By Roll Back Malaria and a number of other big consortiums . I however don’t want to wait for a long bureaucratic process to get this out. I want it tested and out there so it is being used as soon as possible