Researcher Ginette Karirekinyana believes lotion might be the key to eradicating malaria.
Karirekinyana launched the organic cosmetics line Karire in 2017, and its mosquito repellent products continue to grow in popularity, Quartz Africa reports.
“If malaria is an African problem, African countries must find their own solutions,” Karirekinyana told Quartz.
Malaria is spread through parasites carried by infected mosquitoes. Sub-Saharan Africa, which faces the highest rates of extreme poverty, also sees the highest rates of malaria. There were 1.8 million malaria cases in Burundi in 2017 alone. But malaria is a major health threat around the world as well. In 2017, 435,000 people died from malaria.
Born in Burundi, Karirekinyana led her team to figure out how to use distilled catnip essential oil to ward off malaria-carrying mosquitos. During one trial Karirekinyana conducted for the lotion, 55 out of 60 participants said they were not bitten when using it. Now with a nimble 20 person team, Karire also produces affordable soaps, and teas with the catnip oil and is looking to sell mosquito repellent detergent down the line.
When Karirekinyana started her business, bed nets were the go-to malaria prevention method, but according to chief executive Martin Edlund of the organization Malaria No More, they are becoming less effective. At the same time, mosquitos are growing immune to insecticides, the chemicals used to kill them. There also isn’t enough funding dedicated to stopping the epidemic, Edlund said.
Karirekinyana wanted to release an inexpensive product that is easy to integrate into one’s daily routine. Applying lotion is a lot easier than wrapping an entire home in a net. Beauty influencers and actresses are promoting Karire but the company is struggling to put the product in the hands of people living in rural areas.
Karire is only one example of multiple recent malaria prevention innovations. Researchers released a new malaria drug made with gold in January. That same month, studies found a vaccine targeting pregnancy-associated malaria to be safe.
Completely eradicating the disease continues to be a challenge. In 2018, WHO announced that progress in the fight against malaria has stalled. Now, it is up to researchers like Karirekinyana to investigate new solutions.