Malaria remains the number one killer of people worldwide, with 272-million infections and 495 000 deaths occurring annually. This excludes the statistics generated by other mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya, West Nile, Yellow fever and the Zika Virus.
In 2016 the Zika outbreak finally focused international attention on the health and mortality problems associated with mosquitos. On the African continent, which accounts for 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths, rugged and localised solutions are required.
Quentin van den Bergh, founder of manufacturing company P24 Interconnect, joined forces with Kevin Godfrey – founder of technology incubator company Inventworx – to find an effective and complementary solution to the mosquito problem.
“Unfortunately,” says Van den Bergh, a director of the joint venture known as Lumin8, “mosquito population control is a seriously misunderstood situation with a relatively low success rate. It is acknowledged that vector control (spraying of insecticides) and the ingestion of anti-malarial drugs do have a role to play in malaria prevention, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) has seen an increased incidence of mosquito resistance to certain insecticides. As far as taking prophylactics is concerned, they cause a number of side effects and they are not suitable for use by young children.”
“On the advice of the Nandos’ Goodbye Malaria Campaign, we decided to contact the University of Pretoria Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control (UP ISMC) to gain further insight into the identification of mosquito species, a greater understanding of the mosquito lifecycle and the behavioural patterns of the Anopheles mosquito,” says Godfrey.
The UP ISMC has to date assisted Lumin8 with field testing of two models of solar-powered traps – the Halo 1.0 and the Silver Bullet 1.1 – to monitor mosquito vector species.
These compact traps comprise a suction unit that draws the mosquitos into a trap-box. They have a cluster of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that emit a mixture of specific visible and invisible wavelengths of light, which combines, amongst others, carbon dioxide as an attractant. Power is provided by a customised high-efficiency polycrystalline solar panel, which charges a Lithium battery by utilising the latest MPPT charging technology.
The Silver Bullet 1.0 is a small table lantern that provide ambient lighting both indoors and outdoors typically in the homes of people living in rural areas.
“Large corporations such as mining firms may also consider using Halo, to minimise malaria risk in and around their production facilities. Just one confirmed employee malaria case can cost these companies hundreds of thousands of US Dollars as a result of downtime, negative impact on production and the direct healthcare cover costs of employees,” Van den Bergh points out.
The Silver Bullet 1.1 was designed for the research community to catch specimens in the trap compartment that is placed beneath the unit. Designed to hang from trees, these traps are anticipated to make a serious impact in research programmes conducted by local and international research councils and associations.
Halo 1.0 is an industrialised trap typically installed between a swamp or breeding area and a village, to create a protective barrier between the mosquitos and villagers. We hope that organisations like the World Health Organisation or Global Fund recognises the benefits of this product and consider it for use in their mass programmes to control mosquito populations in high-risk areas. Halo also offers a high-power platform, which may be used for Wi-Fi, GSM or IoT networks, or alternatively for medical assistance systems in rural areas.
The Lumin8 mosquito traps not only provide major benefits in terms of mosquito population research and reduction, but they have a number of environmental impact benefits. Both the Halo and Silver Bullet are solar powered to reduce maintenance and pollution. The battery technology used is the same as used in mobile phones, and can be recycled in the same manner after approximately four years of use. Furthermore, both models trap and dehydrate the mosquitos, killing them without the use of any harmful chemicals, and offers mobile phone charging capabilities.
“The reality is that malaria is such a large demographic problem, with so many people at risk, that no one single method will successfully eliminate it. There are just too many people and variables of conditions to state that one solution will take care of all. Collaboration between the providers of various solutions and technologies is therefore the key to success,” says Van den Bergh.