Japanese firm Sumitomo Chemical has handed the Tanzania-based A-Z Textile Mills a royalty-free right to produce new brands of bed nets as fresh malaria outbreaks hit places such as Kenya.
The Olyset Plus, a version of Olyset bed nets produced by the Arusha-based Africa Technical Research Centre (ATRC), will be distributed across the region.
The nets are being produced by ATRC, which is jointly-owned by Sumitomo and the A-Z textile mills.
“By transferring royalty-free technology of imbedding insecticide within textile — and gradually rising to the surface, repelling and killing mosquitoes, A-Z Textile Mills will save lives in Africa which bares 91 per cent of global malaria burden,” Sumitomo Chemical CEO Atsuko Hirooka said in a statement.
With three dedicated labs built at a cost of $1.5 million (Sh154.9 million) to separately handle mosquito, agronomy and analytics, ATRC’s new products mark the final leg of its five year fight against malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. The launch of the nets come amid concerns that mosquitoes are becoming resistant to pyrethrum-based insecticides.
ATRC Director Dr Johnson Odera said Olyset plus is loaded with insecticide from three different classes of pyrethroids that make pesticide resistance difficult and enable it to last for more than two and half years.
The ATRC has also released an indoor spray called SumiSheild as well as SumiLarvae which targets mosquito breeding sites. The A-Z textile mills will initially produce 30 million nets annually before scaling up to annual capacity of 45 million.
In Kenya, cases of malaria outbreak have recently been reported in Marsabit, Baringo, Samburu Mandera, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Turkana, Lamu and West Pokot Counties. More than 2,000 people have been diagnosed with over 50 deaths reported.
The four pockets of high prevalence in East Africa are Kagera Geita (41 per cent), Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika regions (38 per cent) and Morogoro and Ruvuma, both at 23 per cent.