Mosquito-Proof Fabric Could be the Key to a Bite-Free Future

Scientists discover a new fabric that prevents mosquito bites.

Jun 9, 2023
Mosquito-Proof Fabric Could be the Key to a Bite-Free Future | Scientists discover a new fabric that prevents mosquito bites.

There is good news for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. May people consider mosquito bites a nuisance and just part of summer living but these pesky insects can carry diseases. But there is new hope in the battle between man and mosquito. Scientists have recently created a comfortable and cool fabric that could prevent mosquito bites. This fabric could be a real revolution in disease prevention.

A public health crisis
Mosquitos are actually some of the most dangerous creatures on the planet. According to the World Health Organization, mosquitos cause over 700,000 deaths annually, typically children in developing countries. They are more dangerous than any apex predator.  

Luckily, scientists at Auburn University, in Alabama, may have found the secret to stopping mosquito-borne diseases in their tracks. According to Fast Company, the lab, led by John Beckman, assistant professor of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the university has created a type of fabric that blocks mosquito bites. 

“We’ve discovered a unique knit: By its geometric structure, it blocks mosquito bites,” Beckman told Fast Company.

Inspired from a camping trip 
Beckman came up with the idea of a bite-proof fabric while brainstorming about possible research projects in his backyard. He recallied a camping trip during which he had gotten practically eaten alive by deer flies despite wearing a long-sleeved shirt, according to Auburn University’s The Newsroom. 

“People say, ‘wear long sleeves’ a lot,” Beckmann told The Newsroom. “But long sleeves don’t block mosquitos. There are also several companies out there that claim their fabrics resist bites, but we tested them and they really don’t. They’ve never solved the issue of the holes in the makeup of their fabrics, which allow the mosquitos to penetrate them.”

While some companies are manufacturing what they claim is bite-proof clothing, the apparel is impregnated with pesticides or made of thick fabrics that are too hot to wear and are too easy for mosquitos to overcome. That’s because the weave of fabrics leaves gaps that mosquitos and other biting insects can get through.

The team learned this the hard way by testing these products on themselves in a tank full of hungry mosquitos. 

Merging bite resistance and comfort
The key was to discover a fabric that eliminated these gaps and was still cool enough to wear in a tropical climate. “That is the precise reason why this project is not as easy as people think,” Beckmann said.

“You obviously need your clothes to be breathable. Paradoxically, that usually comes at the cost of letting mosquitoes bite through them. So the basic problem is keeping the holes there while simultaneously sealing them off from microscopic mosquito mouth parts.” 

The team experimented by using a CNC or computer numerical control knitting machine that could be programmed with different patterns until they found a bite-proof one, reported Fast Company. The end result is a product that the graduate students on the research team compare to Lululemon leggings. 

But the researchers are still not satisfied and will be spending the next year refining the comfort aspect of the material and eventually creating a clothing line.  

The hope is that eventually any type of fabric can be woven into the lab’s pattern, so that all kinds of clothing companies from baby clothing manufacturers to dress designers could create mosquito-proof clothing. 

Beckmann and his team have also researched ways to sterilize or genetically engineer mosquitoes but that’s a very complex and expensive solution.

“I think people, and researchers especially, overthink problems and engineer the most complicated solutions possible,” he told Fast Company. I honestly think the simplest solution is probably the best one.”

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.