A collaboration between a scientist and a designer from Africa has resulted in the creation of a fashionable hooded bodysuit embedded at the molecular level with insecticides for warding off mosquitoes infected with malaria.
The disease is estimated to kill 655,000 people annually on the continent.
Though insecticide-treated nets are commonly used to drive away mosquitoes from African homes, the Cornell prototype garment can be worn throughout the day to provide extra protection and does not dissipate easily like skin-based repellants.
By binding repellant and fabric at the nanolevel using metal organic framework molecules - which are clustered crystalline compounds - the mesh fabric can be loaded with up to three times more insecticide than normal fibrous nets, which usually wear off after about six months.
“The bond on our fabric is very difficult to break. The nets in use now are dipped in a solution and not bonded in this way, so their effectiveness doesn’t last very long,” said Frederick Ochanda, postdoctoral associate in Cornell’s department of fiber science and apparel design and a native of Kenya. The colourful garment, fashioned by Matilda Ceesay, a Cornell apparel design undergraduate from Gambia, debuted on runway at the Cornell Fashion Collective spring fashion show April 28 on the Cornell campus.
It consists of an underlying one-piece body suit, handdyed in vibrant hues of purple, gold and blue, and a mesh hood and cape containing the repellant. The outfit is one of six in Ceesay’s collection, which she said “explores and modernizes traditional African silhouettes and textiles by embracing the strength and sexuality of modern woman”. Ochanda and Ceesay, from opposite sides of the continent, both have watched family members suffer from malaria. Ceesay recalls a family member who was ailing and subsequently died after doctors treated her for malaria when she had some other illness.