Synthetic insecticides that are currently being used in East Africa for treating bed nets are not safe, researchers have said.
Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) is carrying out a study that involves use of natural extracts the pyrethrum through nanotechnology to come up with safe insecticides for treating nets.
Dr Festus Tolo, head of natural product research and drug development programme at the Kemri said the study was long overdue because some countries have banned the use of synthetically treated nets.
“The pyrethrum flower produces pyrethrins which are natural insecticides. The technology involves transforming the particles (extracts) from pyrethrum to remain for a longer period of time,” said Dr Tolo.
“The reason why pyrethrins have not been in use is that they are not readily available and do not last long when used on bed nets while the pyrethroids are easily available and last for long on nets.”
Currently, mosquito nets are treated by insecticides known as pyrethroids, which researchers say cause asthma and cancer among children and harm the environment.
“We are expecting to release the results by October. Though from what we have gathered, natural pyrethrum sprays paralyses insects that come into contact with it. We want to make it long lasting.”