Third of an occasional series
While a British firm is getting close to a malaria vaccine, government researchers in the United States have been working up an all-natural mosquito repellent that may be harmless to humans. Together, they could put an end to malaria for good — and help transform Africa.
Remember the first time you ate grapefruit, or drank grapefruit juice? I do. Just nasty.
Well, it turns out that grapefruit also happens to be death to mosquitoes. And National Public Radio is reporting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention down in Atlanta are taking advantage of that.
They’re developing a mosquito repellent based on the essence of grapefruit.
Sounds silly, until you hear what this stuff can do.
First, it doesn’t merely repel the little bloodsuckers. It kills them.
Second, because it’s based on a natural substance instead of a man-made chemical, it’s not as likely to linger in the environment and cause problems. The CDC, in fact, will tell you that it’s actually safe enough to drink.
Not that you would, but you could.
You can read and/or listen to the NPR story here.
If you live in places exposed to illnesses like Lyme disease and West Nile virus, this could be The Next Big Thing.
For Africa, where mosquito-borne malaria kills close to a million people a year, it could be even bigger than that.
As a gigantic fringe benefit, we might finally be able to retire things like DEET, permethrin and DDT.
DEET is the main chemical in mosquito repellents today. In sufficient amounts, it can melt the man-made fabrics in your clothes. Permethrin is so strong, you can only put it on your clothes.
And the indiscriminate spraying of DDT wrought environmental havoc that has taken decades to undo. However, households all over the Mother Continent routinely spray their homes with DDT.
An effective, environmentally safe repellent based on a common and easily grown fruit, easily applied and safe to use, and can double as a mosquito killer as well as a shield, could put an end to all that.
Combined with the malaria vaccine now being worked up by the British pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Smith Kline, this could mean the end of malaria in Africa. The ripple effects of that would extend far beyond African shores.
All, in part, thanks to a nasty-tasting yellow ball of citrus.
The only question now is whether the pharmaceutical companies will produce this stuff cheaply enough to make it widely available worldwide, or will the profit motive trump public health, as it often seems to do.