Good Thinking

Volcanic-glass spray kills malaria-carrying mosquitos

Volcanic-glass spray kills mal...
The lower portion of a mosquito's leg, after contact with the powdered perlite
The lower portion of a mosquito's leg, after contact with the powdered perlite
View 1 Image
The lower portion of a mosquito's leg, after contact with the powdered perlite
1/1
The lower portion of a mosquito's leg, after contact with the powdered perlite

A type of volcanic glass, perlite is frequently used as building insulation or a potting soil additive. According to a new study, though, it also works quite well at killing malaria-causing mosquitos.

Presently, people in malaria-prone regions regularly spray insecticides onto surfaces such as the mosquito-proof netting surrounding their beds. While this does kill many of the mozzies that land on those surfaces, the insecticides are toxic both to the people themselves and to the environment.

Seeking a more eco-friendly alternative, scientists from North Carolina State University and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine recently trialled a product known as Imergard WP. Manufactured by California-based company Imerys Filtration Minerals, it's a spray made up mainly of water and powdered perlite.

The tests were conducted on four groups of huts in the West African Republic of Benin. The walls of one group were sprayed with Imergard, the walls of another were sprayed with a commonly-used insecticide (pyrethroid), and the walls of a third were sprayed with a combination of the two. The fourth group of huts served as a control, not being sprayed at all.

It was found that the walls treated with Imegard – both on its own and when combined with pyrethroid – initially killed the largest amount of malaria-carrying Anopheles gambiae mosquitos. Six months after application, though, the mortality rate of mosquitos landing on the Imegard-only walls was still up at 78 percent. By contrast, over the same time period, the mortality rate for the pyrethroid-only walls dropped to 25 percent.

The researchers believe that the perlite particles work by clinging to the insects and disrupting the protective lipid layer on their outer cuticle. This causes the mosquitos to dry out, ultimately dying of dehydration.

Additionally, the spray is non-toxic to mammals, it's relatively inexpensive, and mosquitos apparently don't develop a resistance to it.

"The processing of perlite as an insecticide is novel," says David Stewart, commercial development manager for Imerys, and co-author of a paper on the research. "This material is not a silver bullet but a new tool that can be considered as part of an insect vector management program."

The paper was published this week in the journal Insects.

Source: North Carolina State University

8 comments
Wombat56
That's good, but what does it do to the occupants' lungs?
minivini
I wonder if the aerosol compound is damaging to human lungs. Seems like ridding take region of large numbers of mosquitos might also create populations with pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. I’ve always wanted to use that in a sentence. Also, it does seem like a valid concern...
usugo
"the spray is non-toxic to mammals" sounds like a wishful thinking. Both particles size and supposed mechanism of action suggest otherwise.
paleochocolate
Can confirm it's safe, I inhale the stuff everyday. Gives a solid kick in the morning.
Expanded Viewpoint
Yeah, breathing that stuff could give you "white lung disease", and you'd die a death like coal miners do, hacking and spitting and coughing your lungs out.
How about using a source of CO2, like a yeast culture or heat decomposed baking soda or gaseous CO2 or dry ice as a lure, and the mosquitoes get trapped on ventilated fly paper when they try to reach the bait? Of course the mosquito wing tracking and laser beam zapping idea mentioned in Gizmag is always great fun too!!

Randy
Trylon
So basically the same desiccant mechanism as silica gel powder, which is already sold as an insecticidal powder (CimeXa brand) with specific application against bed bugs and can be applied in a water-based suspension.
ljaques
Perlite and DDT ought to be a fantastic combo.
kuryus
Diatomaceous earth, which is made of silica shards, from ancient see creature shells, has been known for ages to kill insects by a similar method. The sharp edges lacerate the bug.
It is also harmful to lungs.