According to an article in a recent Textile World magazine, North Carolina State University (NC State) is dedicating research dollars to the study of creating a pest-free fabric that will keep consumers safe from disease-carrying mosquitoes. The article reports that NC State is committed “to develop a highly engineered, comfortable fabric that is mosquito bite resistant to a very high level, but also free of unwanted pesticides.”
Why target mosquitoes? The World Health Organization (WHO) states that mosquito bites cause more deaths (725,000 per year) than any other organism on the planet, primarily due to malaria. With cases of the Zika virus infiltrating the U.S. through our southern states, clothing manufacturers will hopefully pick up on this new capability, and one day you very well may be called upon to embellish a mosquito-repellant garment.
In fact, a start-up company called Vector Textiles, an off-shoot of the NC State researches, funded by an online Indigogo crowd funding campaign, is about to launch a line of maternity clothing called Pro-Tex. Equally important to keeping mosquitoes at bay for pregnant women and children, is to accomplish this without the use of chemical-imbedded fabrics used for their clothing.
Through their studies, “the textile and garment products have been stringently tested in NC State’s entomology labs and proven better than 98% effective under extreme worst-case scenario mosquito exposure.” Three methods of bite-resistance are being tested, using knits, wovens and non-wovens: in Strategy A, the pores of the fabric are so small that the proboscis of the mosquito cannot penetrate; in Strategy B, a tortuous path through the fibers causes the proboscis to fail to penetrate; and in Strategy C, a spacer fabric is of a thickness that prevents the proboscis from reaching the skin.
High up on the researcher’s list of “musts” is the ability to design fabrics that are porous enough to allow air circulation and moisture management. Perhaps the difficulties once brought by athleisure to the embroidery market will soon be surpassed by the need to embellish on mosquito-repellent garments.