Megadose, a Brazilian company that designs maternity clothes, has released a new line of anti-Zika apparel. These clothes are made of a special fabric that is infused with a natural mosquito repellent called citronella and are designed to help pregnant women avoid contracting the dreaded Zika virus.
Ever since the Zika outbreak spread across the Pacific to the Americas and reached pandemic levels in 2015, people in these are being regions are being asked to cover up well and use mosquito repellents at all times. There is no vaccine or medication to prevent getting infected, so the only way to stay safe for now is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
While Zika fever itself has mild symptoms and is treated by rest, it can cause birth defects to the fetus if contracted by pregnant women. In fact, the governments of some countries like Colombia, Ecuador, and El Salvador have recommended that women postpone getting pregnant until more discoveries are made about the risks. But for those who are already pregnant, Megadose is trying to provide a viable solution.
Given that supermarket sales of mosquito repellents have risen 120% in the first few weeks of 2016, the company realised that a mosquito repelling fabric could be of great help to their customer base. “We have been talking about how to reduce our customers’ concerns, those of pregnant women,” said Joao Ricardo, CEO of Megadose.
When applied directly on the body, citronella – which is highly volatile – lasts only about 20 to 30 minutes. If applied in the form of a cream, its effectiveness can be increased to about three to four hours. So Megadose wanted to find a way to make the product last much longer. So they partnered with Nanovetores, a Brazilian company that specializes in the encapsulation of microparticles in different substances by using nanotechnology.
“Citronella is a natural insecticide and has no contraindications,” Ricardo explained. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we insert citronella micro-capsules inside the fibers of our materials. [This] is done to the raw materials, then we sew the fabrics in the designs for pregnant women, and we are able to sell it to our client-base.”
While these mosquito-repelling clothes are priced around 10 to 12 percent higher than regular clothing, the citronella coating is not permanent – it will only last about 20 to 30 washes. There is also no scientific evidence that these clothes are effective in warding off mosquitoes. But they definitely could provide a placebo effect, and that might just be worth the higher cost. As Ricardo believes, this new line of clothing could help pregnant women “calm their nerves.”
But is that really what you want to do when it comes to a virus that is believed to cause serious birth defects? Give women a sense of security even though you can’t actually prove that your product keeps them safe?