Graphene Shield Shows Promise in Blocking Mosquito Bites

A close up view of a mosquito

A female Aedes mosquito, which spreads dengue virus

Photo: NIAID

An innovative graphene-based film helps shield people from disease-carrying mosquitos, according to a new study funded by NIEHS. The research, conducted by the Brown University Superfund Research Center, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“These findings could lead to new protective methods against mosquitos, without the environmental or human health effects of other chemical-based repellants,” said Dr. Heather Henry, a health scientist administrator with the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.

Researchers found dry graphene film seemed to interfere with mosquitos’ ability to sense skin and sweat because they did not land and try to bite. When investigators looked closely at videos taken of the mosquitos in action, they noticed the insects landed much less frequently on graphene than on bare skin. The graphene film also provided a strong barrier that mosquitos could not bite through, although when wet it did not stop mosquitos from landing on skin.

“We set out imagining that graphene film would act as a mechanical barrier, but after observing the mosquitos’ behavior, we began to suspect they were not interested in biting,” said Dr. Robert Hurt, director of the Superfund Research Program at Brown. 

Mosquitos threaten public health by carrying infectious viruses such as Yellow Fever, West Nile and Zika, leading to disability and death for millions of people every year.

Results show that graphene, a tight, honeycomb lattice of carbon, could be an alternative to chemicals now used in mosquito repellants and protective clothing. Until this study, insect-bite protection was an unexplored function of graphene-based materials.