LSTM project selected for accelerated development in the fight against Zika

News article 23 Aug 2016

An affordable, long-lasting, low-technology alternative to existing insect repellents developed by LSTM, has been selected for accelerated development, testing and deployment by The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as a potentially game changing solution to mitigate the spread and impact of the Zika virus.

LSTM’s Dr Gerry Killeen is based at Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) in Tanzania and has been working with local researchers to develop a novel insecticide emanator, which can be treated and retreated with the insecticide transfluthrin. He said: “Originally developed by a local scientist, Dr Sheila Ogoma, as a local solution to a local problem here in Africa,  we know that the emanators provide more that 90% protection over six months against the mosquitoes that carry malaria. This latest award will facilitate their testing against those mosquitoes which are the vector for the Zika virus.” 

Existing repellent products can be used to protect against mosquitoes that are active outside during daylight hours, such as the Aedes mosquito that transmits the Zika virus, but don’t last long enough to be practical or affordable for the people who need them most. New products like this, that are affordable,long-lasting and rapidly scalable are urgently required. In April this year USAID launched the Combatting Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenge to invest up to $30 million in new innovations. They received over 900 submissions from around the world, and earlier this month announced details of the 21 that have been selected as award nominees, so far. 

Dr Killeen continued: “This emanator offers a potential solution, it costs only $0.15 for one treatment of the Hessian fabric device, which lasts for up to one full year. This widely used fibre is readily available and can be treated repeatedly and safely by any individual or local manufacturer. Transfluthrin is widely used throughout the world in repellent products, is available in bulk from generic manufacturers, and so safe that it is classified along with food additives by the European Union. However, this is the first time that it has been formulated for routine use by some of the poorest, most vulnerable communities in the world. This project offers a practical and affordable solution that can easily be transferred from the African setting in which it was developed to anywhere in the world.” 

Testing for the repurposing of the emanator will begin in Tanzania, but then extend to Malaysia and Brazil, over the next two years. Throughout this new project, Dr Killeen will work alongside Dr Shelia Ogoma, who originally developed the emanator through the Avecnet Consortium which was coordinated by LSTM, and supported by the Innovative Vector Control Consortium product development partnership, which is also based in Liverpool.