Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New App to repel Dengue Mosquitoes

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Dr Hidayatul Fathi Othman has been studying Aedes mosquitoes for the last 20 years. The Associate Professor of parasitology and entomology from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia is a leading academic in vector-borne diseases in South East Asia.


According to the Health Ministry, there were 108,698 dengue cases in 2014, exceeding the 100,000 mark for the first time and marking a 151 percent increase from 2013.

The trend continued in the first quarter of 2015 with 32,535 reported cases and 101 deaths, representing a 37 percent increase in the number of cases and more than double the fatality rate in the same period in 2014.

“The country is at an endemic stage of dengue. I can’t stress enough how serious this is. Even if you don’t get it, someone in your family might and remember, dengue kills,” she warned.

Dr Hidayatul Fathi said successful dengue prevention would come with community effort, and one should not just rely on the ministry to provide the solution.

“I diligently commit 15 minutes every day to search and destroy possible mosquito breeding grounds within the home, as per the Health Ministry’s recommendation. You wouldn’t be able find a single mosquito larvae in my house, yet my children got it. The community needs to get involved, as this is a collective effort,” she said.

Fogging works would only kill adult mosquitoes and not the larvae, and she said continuous use of such chemicals could eventually build the mosquitoes’ resistance towards the chemicals.

It was wiser to be on guard at all times, she advised. This can be done by dedicating 15 minutes a day for search and destroy efforts, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants even when at home or applying topical mosquito repellants as often as possible.

Kil Dengue - App to repel dengue

However, not everyone would remember to bring mosquito repellants with them when they leave the house and this is where the mobile phone could come in handy.

“People bring their phones everywhere with them, these days,” she said at the launch of Kil-Dengue, an app designed to repel Aedes mosquito.

Mobile solutions developer New Wave Communications Sdn Bhd developed the app which works by generating sound waves that chases the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes away.

The Institute of Medical Research (IMR) has tested the app against local mosquito strains to ensure its efficacy. Its frequency is found to effectively repel more than 75 percent of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which causes dengue.

New Wave Communications chairman John Sung admitted that the technology was not new. However, it had been developed over three years and tuned to repel the Aedes aegypti.

“Our original intent was to adapt the existing technology available in Korea for the Malaysian market.

“However, when we found that a different sound wave is required to repel mosquitoes in Malaysia, we decided to develop and test it at the IMR to ensure that the right frequency is used to effectively repel dengue-transmitting mosquitoes,” he told the media during the app launch here, recently.

Effectively repel Aedes

Dr Hidayatul Fathi said the app works by mimicking the wing beat frequency of the male Aedes mosquito, the Aedes albopictus.

“The female Aedes mosquitoes are the ones that transmit the dengue virus as they bite. However, they only do so when they are fertilised, as they need the protein from human blood to feed the eggs in their body,” she explained.

However, once fertilised, the female mosquitoes will avoid mating with the male, thus causing them to be repelled by the wing beat frequency of the male as emitted by the app.

The user-friendly app has a simple interface, which allows users to select from the six environment options available – room, office, garden, mountain, jungle and beach.

According to Sung, the frequency works best within a range of five-metre radius. The app can be left running in the background as users continue to use their mobile phone.

Sung said the app’s function would only be disrupted by the phone call function of the phone. Users can also select how long they want to leave the app on.

According to the head of Mobile Apps at New Wave Communications, Dorothy Yap, the app would consume as much power as listening to an mp3 via the mobile phone.

“The wing beat frequency is almost inaudible to human ears. The pitch can repel mosquitoes but it is not loud enough to irritate users.”

Kil-Dengue can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple App Store for a one-time subscription fee of RM10 (for Android platforms) or USD2.99 (for iOS).

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