Kemri sets record straight over use of mosquito nets

Saturday April 22 2017

The Kenya Medical Research Institute has said that treated mosquito nets

The Kenya Medical Research Institute has clarified that treated mosquito nets are not a health danger. PHOTO | NOEL CELIS | AFP 

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Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has refuted claims by one of its researchers that treated mosquito nets are harmful to young children.

In a press statement, the research institute clarified that insecticide treated nets are safe for use, contrary to an opinion fronted by a researcher that the nets, treated using pyrethroids, put young children at risk of contracting asthma and cancer.

Although the institute admitted that pyrethroids are generally known to be harmful, it said the levels of concentrations, when used in manufacturing bed nets, are “completely safe”.

On Friday, the said researcher who heads the Natural Product Research and Drug Development Programme (Napreda) at Kemri claimed that the synthetic (man-made) versions of pyrethrins, known as pyrethroids, were causing illness in infants and young children.

But Kemri said that the levels of concentrations used in these nets strictly adhere to World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines.

“We wish to clarify that insecticide treated nets are safe for use and consequently allay any possible fears that may have been raised by the media,” Kemri noted.

Speaking to Sunday Nation, head of the malaria control unit, Waqo Ejersa, also reaffirmed the safety of the nets, noting that the researcher was misquoted, and “regrets the information appearing in the paper”.

“The ministry only procures nets that are of high quality and prequalified by WHO. These nets undergo rigorous testing and therefore we have no reason to doubt their safety,” Dr Ejersa said.

Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) form a protective barrier against mosquitoes for people sleeping under them as they reduce malaria illness, severe disease, and death in malaria endemic regions.

The insecticides (pyrethroids) that are used for treating bed nets not only repel mosquitoes but also kill them and other insects.

Only pyrethroid insecticides are approved for use on treated nets as these insecticides are toxic to insects.

However, studies have shown that the insecticides also pose some health risks to humans, hence are being phased out.