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Sunlight-Activated Larvicides: An Eco-Friendly Solution for Mosquito-Borne Diseases

A new weapon in the war against mosquitoes: a plant-based larvicide. Activated by sunlight, the larvicide has been shown to effectively kill Aedes mosquito larvae with minimal toxicity towards humans and other animals and is expected to become a sustainable substitute for chemical fogging.

Plaguing nearly 700 million people and claiming one million lives annually, mosquito-borne diseases, like Dengue, Malaria, and Zika, are among the most serious public health threats worldwide. In Asia alone, the economic burden of dengue is estimated to be US$2 billion per year, excluding costs spent to prevent the spread of disease and curb circulating vectors.

Given the global and cross-sectoral strain caused by arboviruses, scientists have devised various control strategies and vector-based interventions including but not limited to environmental management, targeted clearing of mosquito breeding sites, the use of insecticides, long-lasting insecticidal nets, and indoor residual spraying.


Now, a new vector control strategy has been proposed, coming in the form of a plant-based, eco-friendly larvicide. Created by a group of researchers led by Senior Lecturer Dr. Susmita Ban from Republic Polytechnic’s School of Applied Science, this novel larvicide is activated when exposed to sunlight and releases free radicals, which can effectively kill the larvae of Aedes mosquitoes when ingested. Laboratory tests have demonstrated a near 100 per cent killing rate of Aedes mosquitoes with this larvicide.

Compared to current vector control strategies like fogging, which contain toxins that can adversely affect the health of other animals and humans, this larvicide has been shown to pose no harm to other aquatic animals. Its non-toxic property is primarily hinged upon the fact that sunlight, which is needed to activate the chemical and generate free radicals, can only penetrate translucent organisms like mosquito larvae.

Besides being non-toxic, the larvicide has been shown to prevent the emergence of resistance, even if it is used regularly, through its multi-targeted killing mechanism. It was also reported that a very low dose of larvicide is sufficient to kill mosquito larvae, making it a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to conventional methods. In fact, this solution is foreseen to reduce the time and manpower needed for vector control compared to the standard mosquito fogging.

Having undergone a simulated field trial, this cheap, safe, and targeted mosquito-killing tool is now ready for commercialisation. [APBN]

Source: Republic Polytechnic School of Applied Science