New Crystal Form of Insecticide 12 Times Better at Fighting Malaria

As nature evolves, pesticides have to evolve with it.
Derya Ozdemir

Humanity has gotten better at controlling mosquito-borne diseases; however, mosquitos can develop resistance to insecticides that we use, rendering them useless.

A team of researchers from New York University has created a new crystal form of deltamethrin, which is a common insecticide used to control malaria, and the new chemical that they've accomplished is up to 12 times more effective against mosquitoes.


A simple process of heating and cooling

Insecticides usually come in the form of crystals that kill the mosquitoes who step on them. When a mosquito steps on the crystals, its feet absorb the insecticide and kill the mosquito. Manipulating crystal formations and growth can be made possible through a simple process of heating and cooling, which was what the study's senior authors Bart Kahr and Michael Ward, two chemistry professors at NYU,  did.

The researchers heated deltamethrin to 110°C/230°F and cooled it to room temperature. This led them to a new crystallized form of deltamethrin which had long and tiny fibers expanding from one point.

New Crystal Form of Insecticide 12 Times Better at Fighting Malaria
Before (left) & After (right). Source: Jingxiang Yang/NYU

The new form worked up to 12 times better

The new crystal form was tested on two types of mosquito that transmit malaria and fruit flies. The results were shocking -- the researchers saw that this new form worked up to 12 times faster than what was commercially available.

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Ward explained the importance of the study saying, "Deltamethrin has been a leading tool in combating malaria, but it faces an uncertain future, threatened by developing insecticide resistance. The simple preparation of this new crystal form of deltamethrin, coupled with its stability and markedly greater efficacy, shows us that the new form can serve as a powerful and affordable tool for controlling malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases."

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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