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Electronic Mosquito Repellents Fail to Prevent Malaria Transmission

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The authors say that 30 years of scientific skepticism and a successful prosecution in the 1980s of EMR marketers under the UK Trade Description Act has not affected worldwide marketing of the devices. “This is a concern,” they write, “because it is likely to lead to consumers not using other protective methods that are proven to work.” Such personal protection includes mosquito repellents formulated as pills, ointments, lotions and sprays, as well as insecticide-treated or untreated bed nets.

Study investigators had counted mosquitoes landing on bare body parts — mostly arms, legs and feet — during specified time periods in which an EMR was switched on or off.

There were no significant differences in the landing rates with and without EMR, making the devices ineffective for preventing malaria transmission.

“I agree with the Cochrane report,” said Joel Breman, M.D., a senior scientific advisor at the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health. “There is no evidence that electronic devices prevent malaria and many other available options should be used. For example, insecticide-soaked bed nets kill female mosquitoes on contact or repel them from the house during the biting hours, from dusk to dawn.”

While also in agreement with the review’s conclusion, Nirbhay Kumar, Ph.D., professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, added one qualification.

“Seven of 10 studies analyzed focused on non-anopheline mosquitoes and only three included [the type of mosquito that transmits malaria],” Kumar said. “Perhaps a few confirmatory studies focusing in only malaria-endemic areas may either completely support their analysis or provide some hope for malaria control by this method, if at all applicable.”

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