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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sumitomo insecticide nets keep mosquitoes at bay


A mosquito net developed by a Japanese company is helping the world battle malaria.

News photo
No mosquitoes: Takaaki Ito of Sumitomo Chemical Co. holds an Olyset Net at the company's office in Chuo Ward, Tokyo. KYODO

The number of deaths from the mosquito-transmitted diseases stood at 780,000 worldwide in 2009, down sharply from annual deaths of 1 million reported earlier, according to the World Health Organization. Partly contributing to the reduction is the special Olyset Net developed by Sumitomo Chemical Co.

Mosquito nets, introduced into Japan from China, became widely used during the Edo Period.

Nets were hung over foldable bedding at night to keep mosquitoes at bay. However, mosquito nets were no longer a must household item for summer by the 1980s, reflecting growing use of insecticide, mosquito screens and air conditioners.

The nets are still used in malaria-infected regions. Because conventional nets are coated with insecticide only on the surface, the insecticide washes away quickly and the effect doesn't last long.

A research team led by Takaaki Ito in Sumitomo Chemical's section in charge of health- and agriculture-related business developed in 1994 mosquito nets with longer-lasting deterrence, with the insecticide permeated into the net fabric to continue to seep out.

The Olyset Net was developed by Ito, an expert on pestology, in cooperation with colleagues conducting studies on resin. It incorporates insecticide into polyethylene fibers of which the net is made, instead of coating the surface.

As a result, the insecticide continues to seep out from the fabric even after multiple washings, keeping the net effective for at least five years.

To eradicate malaria, the WHO had been looking for mosquito nets that offer better protection against mosquitoes. The organization recommended the use of the long-lasting Sumitomo net for the first time in 2001.

The net gained worldwide recognition and in 2004 Time magazine named it in a list of the "most amazing inventions."

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