The use of mosquito netting dipped in a biodegradable insecticide could cut malaria deaths in children by as much as two-thirds, according to a study of children in 17 Gambian villages where bed nets soaked in the insecticide permethrin were tested.
The study, published Saturday in the British medical journal The Lancet, showed that malaria deaths of young children were reduced by 70%. The nets work by stopping and killing mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite before they can bite the children.
The study, by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council Laboratories in Gambia, found that the insecticide did no harm to people using the nets. On the basis of the findings, the Gambian government is planning a program to distribute nets to all villages.
One hundred million cases of malaria--or 90% of the world's total--occur every year in Africa, the World Health Organization says. Between 1 million and 2 million people worldwide die annually of the disease, perhaps one-quarter of them children.
WHO estimates the cost of each net at $3.60, plus a small amount for the insecticide. WHO officials say the nets must be soaked twice a year, using a bowl, measuring jug and rubber gloves.