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Researchers announce game-changing updates to mosquito-preventing bed nets: 'This is a big improvement'

"Even one that is more efficacious, it's still limited."

"Even one that is more efficacious, it’s still limited."

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A new generation of mosquito-blocking bed nets tested in several African countries are estimated to have saved close to 25,000 lives, STAT reported.

About 56 million nets were distributed in Burkina Faso, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, and other countries with heightened malaria risks. Two models were tested by the New Nets Project — one produced by chemical company BASF and another designed by Disease Control Technologies. Each was coated with the standard insecticide called pyrethroid, which mosquitoes have grown some resistance to, along with either chlorfenapyr or pyriproxyfen.

Though the two were not compared head to head, overall, the nets were found to be 20-50% more effective than traditional ones in reducing mosquito exposure. They also reduced the risk of infection by up to 55%.

More than 249 million malaria cases were reported across the globe in 2022, according to the World Health Organization.

These numbers are expected to increase as our planet continues to overheat, as changes in temperature, humidity, and rainfall can affect the behavior and survival of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Extreme weather events like heat waves and flooding can also impact transmission, WHO says.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates rising global temperatures will put an added 51-62 million people at risk for malaria in eastern and southern Africa by the 2030s.

While exciting news in the fight against malaria, the new bed nets are not a cure-all, warns Joe Wagman, senior public health entomologist at the malaria and neglected tropical disease program of PATH.

"I am really, really happy that we now have a better bed net on the market," Wagman told STAT. "I think that this is a big improvement and that's a positive development. But … at the end of the day a bed net is still a bed net and even one that is more efficacious, it's still limited."

The good news is that public health officials have some other tools at their disposal, including two anti-malarial vaccines. In fact, Cameroon announced it was launching the world's first mass vaccination campaign against malaria in January 2024. Other strides in the fight against malaria include gene-edited sterile mosquitoes and malaria-sniffing dogs.

Plus, scientists at the University of Texas at El Paso have found that adding soap to certain pesticides used to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes made the formulations 10 times stronger.

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