Spatial Repellency Prevents Diseases


The efficiency of spatial repellency is under review.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the University of Notre Dame $23 million to conduct research on spatial repellency usage to prevent malaria and dengue fever.  Spatial repellency protects people from insect-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever.  There is very little understanding and appreciation of how insecticides work; however, public health insecticides for vector control have a significant influence in preventing diseases.

The efficiency of spatial repellency

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports there has been a 50 percent decline of malaria cases between 2000 and 2010.  In addition, malaria-specific deaths have declined by 26 percent.  They also announced that there were close to 207 million cases of malaria in 2012.  Additionally, 50 to 100 million infections of the dengue fever occur each year.

The reduction of cases and deaths caused by malaria are predominately due to vector control, indoor residual spraying (IRS), and insecticide treated bednets.  Bites from infected mosquitoes transmit the dengue virus and malaria parasite to their victims.  In order to prevent infections, candles and coils (forms of spatial repellents) are used to release substances to deter and impel mosquitoes away from enclosed areas.

Recently, the University of Notre Dame reported their biologists are leading research on preventing malaria and dengue fever; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the university $23 million to conduct a five-year project.  The university biologists are attempting to show the efficiency of spatial repellency (new method of mosquito control) in repressing malaria and dengue fever.

Spatial repellents are not new

The use of spatial repellency has been around for quite some time.  DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) is a spatial repellent initially used in the 1940s for malaria control.  In fact, DDT is presently the most effective chemical in preventing malaria transmission in houses.  However, DDT is under intense scrutiny.  In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of this pesticide claiming it is a probable human carcinogen, capable of causing a number of illnesses, such as liver cancer and damage to the nervous and productive systems of humans.

Nonetheless, due to immense malaria health problems, the World Health Organization declared its support for spatial repellency for indoor use in African countries.  Whether the new spatial repellent in the University of Notre Dame five-year project will contain DDT is uncertain.  Nevertheless, there are many who anticipate future reports from the university pertaining to this scientific research on the efficacy of spatial repellency for the prevention of malaria and dengue fever.

Read more of George Zapo’s articles about public, global, and environmental health at his website: Healthy Habits.

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George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: