Doctor couple creates insect repellent products to help prevent malaria

Published on: 15 December 2020

Married doctor duo Drs Mthokozisi and Sthembile Sibanda have created a brand of textile-based insect repellent products to help prevent malaria.

Mthokozisi, who holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering, told The Star on Monday that he joined forces with his wife Sthembile, who holds a PhD in Human Physiology, to create NoBuzz.

“Most malaria cases come from people who were infected outdoors, and when outside mosquitoes that carry malaria usually bite people on their lower legs, ankles and feet.

“The technology here is for people to wear something around their ankles and feet that is an insect repellent and they will reduce the probability of getting bitten by mosquitoes that carry malaria,” the 36-year-old entrepreneur said.

Mthokozisi said the brand’s original idea came about in 2014 and when he was in Germany for about two years working on a proof of concept.

“When we managed to prove the concept my supervisor encouraged me to turn the idea into a business, and by luck the equipment I was using in Germany was available at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.”

The couple came up with the idea to create insect repellent hiking socks and repellent bands of a special textile.

“We made a special fibre and this is infused with an insect repellent. The fibre stores the repellent and slowly releases it. The way that we infused the repellent in the fibre allows the products to be washable and usable for up to eight months,” Mthokozisi said.

He added that the NoBuzz products were washable for at least 25 cold washes. Mthokozisi said the fibre was created from yarn that was specially engineered to store high amounts of the natural insect repellent which came from lemon eucalyptus oil. Lemon eucalyptus oil is commonly used as a natural insect repellent.

“It was a deliberate choice because we wanted to make a textile that can be infused by a safe and natural chemical and all members of the family will feel comfortable,” he said.

Meanwhile, the entrepreneur agreed with The National Institute for Communicable Diseases, which warned last week that with special attention being paid to Covid-19, malaria care was declining.

“Usually government goes around to people’s house in the malaria endemic provinces like Limpopo and Mpumalanga, spraying inside, and that tends to reproduce the population of malaria mosquitoes. But we expected that spraying this season has been affected because they cannot go from house to house because of lockdown,” Mthokozisi said.

He added that because of the declining malaria care there was an increased risk of people contracting malaria due to the higher population of malaria mosquitoes.

- The Star