PARAGUAY’S ANTI-MOSQUITO SHIRT- APTN
Posted the 28 October, 2009 | 1 Comment
They are the bane of tourists the world over. As they flock eagerly to local landmarks, the resident mosquitoes size up the fresh visitors with lunch in mind. The pesky insect’s source of nutrition is found in the blood of animals and humans. But beside the itchy effects of their bite, mosquitoes are the most deadly disease transmitters known to man, killing millions each year by circulating malaria, dengue fever and encephalitis.
In recent years numerous quick fix devices to curb the effect of mosquitoes have dropped in and out of the market. Now, a Paraguayan clothing company says it has a successful formula to beat the blood suckers – a line of shirts that are steeped in anti mosquito oil. At the moment the shirts are targeted towards the lucrative US travel and sports apparel market, while tests are being carried out to evaluate the real preventative potential of the product. Rodrigo Jacks, owner of Pombero, a sports dedicated clothing company based in Asuncion helped develop the product. He says the shirts are proving to be quite an innovation. The key ingredient is citronella – known to help repel mosquitoes.
The fibre oil is extracted from a perfumed grass that grows abundantly in the land locked South American country. The shirt is then impregnated in the oil and sealed using a traditional Paraguayan weaving technique. The company say this allows it to withstand more than 40 washes without losing its power to hold off the insects. Citronella’s distinctive aroma is pleasant to humans but corrupts the senses of the mosquito, interfering with its ability to sniff out human blood. The impregnated cotton fabric is manufactured by the largest textile company in Paraguay, Manufactura de Pilar. As their chemical engineer, Juan Baveola explains, unlike other products it is not about repelling the mosquitoes, but actually about masking the human scent from them.
Paraguay is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that thrive in the wet marshy conditions which are bountiful in the country. The shirt is the result of several years of collaboration between the sport apparel company, Pombero and Paraguay’s non-profit ecological foundation, Moises Bertoni. The director of Moises Bertoni, Yan Speranza, says the making of the shirt has facilitated the initiative of a humanitarian programme to improve the quality of life of hundreds of impoverished and indigenous families who live in the areas where citronella is harvested. Rodrigo Jacks says despite the obvious commercial potential of the anti-mosquito shirt he is confident they can also be used for social gain.
After a dengue fever epidemic in Paraguay in early 2007, government scientists are interested in finding out whether the anti-mosquito shirt can protect against mosquito-borne viruses. Even if proven successful, the shirt retails at US$50. This is far beyond the means of many Paraguayans, more than one third of whom live below the poverty line.