Healthcare, News

Lighting industry set to join war on Zika virus

By tuning the spectral output of the light specifically at the yellow fever mosquito, special traps can be made to attract and kill the insect, and prevent the spread of the Zika virus in the Americas

The lighting industry is gearing up to launch a key weapon in the war on the deadly Zika virus – special LED lights. 

Fred Maxik, the chief technology officer of Lighting Science, is exploring the possibility of constructing a special trap for the mosquito which carries the life-threatening infection. 

Fred Maxik, the chief technology officer of Lighting Science, says the key is to  create specific light that’s useful for our own purposes.

Transmitted via a bite from the yellow fever mosquito, Zika is extremely serious for pregnant women, as there’s evidence it causes birth defects such as abnormally small heads. Experts now warn that they expect the Zika virus to spread to all countries in the Americas, including the Caribbean, except Chile and Canada.

Lighting Science – which uses special tuned lighting for applications such as water purification, turtle protection and space use – is developing a tuned light trap for the yellow fever mosquito. The company is already working with the US Department of Agriculture on its programme of light-based insect traps. With a little modification, it thinks it can develop one specially to help in the war on the Zika virus.

This is because different mosquitos are attracted to different wavelengths of light. By ‘tuning’ the light specifically at the yellow fever mosquito – or Aedes aegypti, to give it its scientific name – the light traps can be targeted.

‘There’s no one size fits all,’ Maxik told Fortune magazine this week. By testing the traps in the field, the company can work out exactly which spectral signature attracts and which repels the creatures. Special lights can then be developed to deter the mosquitoes from approaching buildings such as ante-natal clinics and hospitals in high-risk zones. ‘We’re trying to create light that’s useful for our own purposes.’


Main photo: Copyright Alvesgaspar Photography 2015


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