Soap designed to ward off mosquitoes

OUGADOUGOU (Burkina Faso) • A Burkina Faso start-up has invented a soap that could prevent the spread of mosquito-transmitted diseases such as malaria.

Faso Soap, the brainchild of Mr Moctar Dembele of Burkina Faso and Mr Gerard Niyondiko of Burundi, is comprised of Shea butter, lemongrass, African marigold and other natural ingredients plentiful in Burkina Faso. The soap is designed to leave an insect-repelling odour on the skin, reported CNN.

Most Africans do not have access to or the financial means to buy expensive repellents, Mr Niyondiko said in an interview.

But "soap is one product you can find in all African family homes, no matter how poor they are", he added. "Most people wash in the evening and you want to be protected before you go to bed at night."

One challenge that had to be resolved was to ensure that the soap would be effective even after it was rinsed off.

"We decided to combine the latest cosmetic technology with natural repellent ingredients... we put the natural ingredients into micro-capsules around 100 to 150 micrometres in size, embedded in the soap. These are small enough to stick onto the skin's pores," said Mr Franck Langevin, the campaigns director for the outfit.

"After the soap is rinsed off, the capsules remain and gradually break and release the repellent little by little over a six- to eight-hour period."

The possibilities for Faso Soap extend to other mosquito-transmitted maladies such as the Zika virus but the makers say they intend to focus on malaria, the bigger killer, for now.

They have been partnering with soap manufacturers in West Africa and non-governmental organisations and are conducting more tests before launching the product.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Soap designed to ward off mosquitoes'. Print Edition | Subscribe