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RESEARCH: Study sheds light on the useful life of bed nets for malaria control

Nov. 12, 2020
RESEARCH: Study sheds light on the useful life of bed nets for malaria control
The title and author list snipped from the PLOS MEDICINE website

Bed nets with more robust fabrics used for malaria control have a longer life-span, and could save nearly 20% of costs associated with purchasing a bed net each year, a study conducted by Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) and partners has found.

Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) are the most widely adopted preventive measure against malaria, and represent an effective form of prevention for at-risk populations. ITNs work by both preventing bites and killing mosquitoes that are searching for humans at night. ITNs, and in particular long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), represent a cost-effective means of malaria prevention for at-risk populations.

The study, dubbed “ABCDR Project,” evaluated the useful life of three different LLINs over three years (2013-2016) in Tanzania and determined that the bed nets with more durable fabrics had a longer life-span and could result in nearly 20% reduction of costs per year of the effective life of a bed net.

Group leader of the study, Dr. Sarah Moore, comments that if global procurement agencies choose more durable bed nets, it would result in fewer purchased nets and higher LLIN coverage. This would ultimately result in more sustainable malaria interventions, both physically and economically.

"More than 2 billion ITNs have been procured for public health. They are an incredibly important aspect of malaria control that have saved millions of lives. However, it is the user of the net that ultimately decides its effective life. When ITNs get damaged through wear and tear people throw them away, even when they are still insecticidal," Dr. Moore told the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) – one of the key IHI partners in the study.

According to her, as over one billion bed nets were delivered globally between 2012-2017, the measurement and reporting of the functional life of new ITNs on the market is a vital component of product evaluation. Previous research from the Health Interventions Unit at Swiss TPH showed that by increasing the life of bed nets, the number of nets needed to reach coverage targets could be reduced by up to 60%.

"The data we have collected can support policy makers and vector control specialists both in Tanzania and the Sub Saharan African region to maximize current gains in malaria control," said Dr. Moore. "New ITNs are being developed with brand new chemistries to combat insecticide resistance. These new ITNs cost substantially more than the current ones.

“In the future we hope to see new ITNs manufactured to be as durable as possible to maximize both cost effectiveness and the duration of protection against malaria for those using ITNs. Procurement agencies need to start selecting ITNs based on their value for money and not just the lowest price."

Want to learn more about the ABCDR study? Read this Journal Publication: Comparative functional survival and equivalent annual cost of 3 long-lasting insecticidal net (LLIN) products in Tanzania: A randomised trial with 3-year follow up.


About the ABCDR study

The study investigated LLINs effectiveness in eight districts of Tanzania with approximately 10,600 bed nets from three different brands equally distributed. The multi-disciplinary international research team that Dr. Moore led comprised entomologists, epidemiologists, statisticians, and PhD students from the Swiss TPH, IHI, National Institute for Medical Research and the National Malaria Control Program in Tanzania, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the UK, and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. The study was funded by the Research Council of Norway. #