A Patch To Repel Mosquitoes?

I heard that there’s now a patch you can wear to protect against mosquito bites. Can you tell me anything about it, how it works and whether it is safe?

– March 1, 2016

I’ve only read about this patch, which is still in development.

For most of us mosquito bites are just an itchy nuisance, but elsewhere in the world, they can be lethal. Mosquitoes carry West Nile fever, malaria, dengue fever and Chikungunya fever, a disease that has been spreading in the Caribbean and is just beginning to appear in parts of the U.S. The World Health Organization regards mosquitoes as the deadliest animals on the planet because of the diseases they spread.

As you may know, the most reliable defense we have against mosquito bites is DEET, which I consider toxic and unpleasant. The EPA lists a dozen precautions about the use of repellants containing DEET. Interestingly, the new patch works in much the same way as DEET – by making it hard for the insects to locate us – but reportedly without relying on a toxic chemical. Mosquitoes zero in on humans by sensing the carbon dioxide we exhale. They are capable of finding a source of carbon dioxide from more than 160 feet away. The larger you are, the more of it you exhale, which is probably why small children don’t get bitten as often as adults and why pregnant women and people who are overweight or obese are likely mosquito magnets.

Kite, the company that makes the one-and-one-half inch square patch hasn’t revealed what it emits that throws the bugs off the track of a likely source of a meal other than that the mix of compounds was developed by researchers at the University of California, Riverside. A New York Times writer who visited the company’s lab learned only that a version scheduled to be released next year (2016) is composed of fragrances and other compounds that don’t require EPA approval and that a second version is awaiting regulatory approval for 2017. The company website lists food flavors as ingredients as well as fragrances. The Times reporter wrote that the patch emits an odor resembling cloves.

Based on what I’ve read, you would use the little red Kite patch by sticking it onto your clothes. The manufacturer claims this will protect you from mosquito bites for 48 hours. Reportedly, the cost to consumers will be comparable to that of mosquito repellants now available but may vary depending on where it is sold, the developing world vs. the west.

If the patch works as well as it is said to, it will be a welcome development for all of us and a potential lifesaver for those in areas where mosquitoes are vectors of serious diseases.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Source:

Stephanie Lynn Turner and Anandasankar Ray et al, “Ultra-prolonged activation of CO2-sensing neurons disorients mosquitoes.” Nature, June 2, 2011, doi:10.1038/nature10081

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