PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As concerns grow across Southern New England regarding the risk of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), Brown University is testing a new type of clothing that may prevent mosquito bites.
Dr. Robert Hurt, an engineering professor at Brown University, is leading a study that is trying to determine what fabrics are an effective, yet comfortable, defense against mosquito-borne illness.
Hurt said graphene-lined fabric may be a suitable alternative to wearing long-sleeve shirts of pants, which can be too warm to wear during the warmer months.
During the study, Hurt said brave participants place their arms in a chamber of mosquitoes. In some cases, the volunteers were protected by graphene fabric, while in other cases they were not.
The study revealed that the graphene-lined fabric, so long as it was dry, not only acted as a physical barrier against a biting mosquito, it also seemed to deter mosquitoes from biting at all.
“They were not getting the chemicals queues, they were not smelling and tasting the chemicals in your sweat that attract mosquitoes,” Hurt said.
Fabric soaked in mosquito repellent is one method of prevention, but graphene offers a non-chemical alternative, according to Hurt.
Hurt said participants in the study were not exposed to any diseases from mosquito bites.
“These are captivity-bred, pathogen-free, safe mosquitoes, but it doesn’t mean it’s fun to have them bite you in those numbers,” Hurt said.
The study was funded by the Superfund Center, which focuses on environmental health.
More research is needed to determine whether or not the graphene is 100% mosquito-proof, so there is no timetable on when the protective clothing might be available to the public.